During her journey to Israel with the REALITY Israel and Teach for America programs, Alyse Lewis made a valuable connection between Israelis and the children she teaches in Phoenix.
As a ninth-grade math teacher at Arizona State University Preparatory School, Lewis recognized that her students might not come from the best backgrounds, home lives or financial situations, but she discovered a drive in the Israelis that she plans to instill in her students.
"People in Israel realize that life may throw you obstacles and challenges, but you can never stop fighting for what you believe in," Lewis, 23, said.
"I really took that away from the community, from everything that the Israeli people have gone through. They never stopped fighting."
Last month, Lewis spent 12 days in Israel with 69 other educators from across the U.S. involved in the Teach for America organization. Teach for America is devoted to training college graduates to teach in high-need schools and become leaders in the movement to end educational inequity.
"There's a large gap between the educational opportunities that low-income students receive versus what high-income students receive," Lewis said. "They place us in low-income areas to teach and provide them with the education where they would have more opportunities and hopefully become just as successful and fulfill their potential like their peers have the opportunity to do."
REALITY Israel has taken more than 200 Teach for America participants to Israel in the program's four years of existence. As the educators explore the sights and sounds of Israel, the goal is for them to connect Jewish values and ideas with the service aspect of teaching.
In just her second year of teaching, Lewis' journey to Israel made her realize she will stay in the educational reform movement for life. The most memorable part of the trip for her was meeting and having discussions with teachers, students and social entrepreneurs, many of whom created social movements in their community.
"My journey to Israel was inspiring," Lewis said. "I actually discovered a lot about my personal beliefs and my personal strengths as a leader. The real takeaway was getting to know the people, understanding their challenges and obstacles and realizing that they face a lot of the same challenges that we face here in America."