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IC’s Project LEAD increases diversity in education


Illinois College was recently awarded a $500 grant to help talented students, especially those from underrepresented groups, become educators. 

This is the fourth year that IC has received the grant, a part of Project LEAD, which stands for Leaders in Education Advocating for Diversity. The program is sponsored by State Farm through the Center for Success in High-Need Schools. The initiative aims to help males and students of any gender from minority populations who have an interest in a career in K-12 schools.   

Cynthia Cochran, associate professor of English, and Bridget English, instructor in education, serve as advisors for the program at IC. Each year they take students to two professional conferences that they help to organize and to visit. This year they have attended one conference and plan to visit a Beardstown youth group to recruit potential teachers. Project LEAD also regularly holds campus events to highlight the value of diversity in education. 

“Our main goal is to help diversify the teaching workforce in Illinois through our efforts on campus and by mentoring students who want to teach or be involved in education,” said Cochran. 

 LaZandra Asberry '21, who is in her second year at IC studying to become a teacher, recently joined Project LEAD. She said the experience of encouraging fellow students who are interested in education has been valuable. 

“It’s important to me because one day I am going to educate youth, and the field needs diversity so children can relate to their teachers,” she said. 

Asberry said that she believes having diverse teachers that a wide range of students can relate to makes attending classes more meaningful and will inspire more students to consider teaching. She looks forward to using the skills she is gaining at IC to help her students one day.

Senior Brett Palmer ’19, an aspiring math teacher, said he has learned skills through his involvement with Project LEAD that will be helpful in his future profession, such as leadership skills and the ability to understand the different ways students learn. 

“This effort is important to me because I have been in classrooms where there is an obvious disconnect between the teacher and their students,” said Palmer. “It is my belief that teachers should seek to embrace their students' cultures as much as possible to engage their students in the learning process.”

Additional members in Project LEAD at IC are Ronald Hoagland '19, Karina Rico '18, Ellie Anglin '21 and Yasmine Sanford '19. Angel Ewing '17, who is a teacher at Murrayville-Woodson Elementary School, serves as an alumni member. 

For more information on the education program at Illinois College, visit

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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Rosalind Essig | Senior Writer
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