April 23, 2020
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A funny thing happened to Jake Thorn ’14 on his way to a medical career: He became a teacher instead. Thorn originally intended to take pre-medicine coursework at Kenyon and apply to medical school, but his openness to other possibilities swept him on a different path. “One thing I’ve learned over time is that the best-laid plans don’t always happen in the way you envision them,” he said. “I simply followed my passions as they came along.”
The once-aspiring physician is slotted to teach science this fall in an eastern North Carolina high school as a member of Teach for America, the non-profit organization that enlists high-achieving college graduates and professionals to teach in low-income communities throughout the United States. Kenyon, which traditionally has a high placement rate with Teach for America, placed nine graduates in the program last year.
“There is a need now more than ever for good teachers who really care about their students. The emphasis on good teachers could not be any greater,” he said.
An English major with a minor in biology, Thorn embraced a wide range of experiences during his four years at Kenyon. He conducted an independent study on a fellowship from the National Science Foundation, served an internship in the U.S. Senate, spent an academic year abroad at Oxford, and examined campaign finance reform laws in Kenyon’s summer legal scholars program.
His time at Oxford, where he studied English literature and competed on the rowing team, inspired him to enroll in Teach for America. “It seemed ridiculous to me to be arguing over a few lines in Shakespeare or Dickens when there are people in our own country who can’t read a job application,” Thorn said.
Thorn values adaptability, a trait he figures will hold him in good stead as a teacher. He credits counsel from his aunt (a retired public school teacher in North Carolina), his upbringing as the oldest of four siblings in the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River, Ohio, and his time at Kenyon for helping prepare him for the unexpected.
“I understand there can be a lot of stress placed on students outside the classroom,” he said. “There is always more to the story than meets the eye. I know I will face great challenges over the next two years, but I have found that the rewards always outweigh the challenges. I feel like Kenyon has helped prepare me to handle anything.”