Head of the Class
Khaina Solomon '16
If you asked Khaina A. Solomon '16 a year ago what her career goals were, she would quickly tell you she aspired to work for a Fortune 500 company.
As an ambitious undergraduate, she took advantage of every opportunity to learn the skills that could help her stand out in a competitive work force. She was involved in student government, interned in SUNY Canton’s Public Relations and Financial Aid offices, and worked as a College Ambassador.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in Management, she continued to build her resume with skills that would prepare her for the corporate world. However, fate intervened one day while she was chatting with a friend and mentor, Ornella T. Parker ’14.
“Ornella began sharing her experience as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member in New York City,” Solomon said. “After listening to her explain the social injustices of the education system, I felt inspired to help.”
“I learned a lot about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking chances in college.”
TFA is a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains college graduates to teach in low-income communities across the country. The program requires a two-year commitment, and participants earn a salary and benefits. The organization boasts an impressive group of alumni – CEOs, politicians, entrepreneurs, social activists, physicians, and attorneys.
Solomon said getting involved with TFA was a perfect way to leverage the leadership experience she gained in college to help create change. When it came time to select a city, she passed on larger metropolitan areas in favor of Memphis, where she thought she could make the most difference.
You might imagine packing up and moving from New York City to Tennessee could be an intimidating endeavor. Not the case, said Solomon, crediting her experiences as an undergraduate.
“I learned a lot about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking chances in college. My time at SUNY Canton helped make the decision to move to Memphis much easier, because I had already developed a mindset of taking advantage of every opportunity, no matter how different it may be.”
Shortly after arriving in Memphis, she began a rigorous summer training program to acclimate her to the classroom. This fall, she is in charge of a pre-K special education class for students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical needs.
It’s too early to say whether she’ll remain in the education field beyond her two-year commitment. Right now, she’s focused on doing her part to level the playing field for those in an under-resourced area.
“Students in low-income communities like Memphis are not being served by our education system,” she said. “I believe that every student has the right and ability to achieve, regardless of their background or zip code.”