Salt Lake City skyline

Erin Whalen ’12

"Grinnell’s writing- and rich discussion-based education has helped me teach writing to youth."

Erin played a principal role in securing a $10 million grant from XQ Institute to start RISE High, a project-based charter high school in Los Angeles. RISE was created with the unique needs of homeless and foster care youth at the forefront. Erin’s experiences as a Posse scholar, studying in Cape Town, South Africa, and later teaching in Miami with Teach for America all confirmed his desire to work for those who are seeking equity and justice.

Learning at Grinnell

Erin Whalen ’12

“My strongest experience at Grinnell was the First-Year Tutorial. Here was a kid from LA trying to assimilate to Grinnell, and to have the tutorial environment was exceptional. Grinnell is a close-knit community with teachers who care about you. You learn about community through the classroom, by engaging in conversation deeply rooted in identity and emotions. Working with professor of anthropology Katya Gibel Mevorach was outstanding. Through cultural anthropology, we studied how we ignore equity, and it allowed me to look at different perspectives that I now use to create an engaging environment for RISE students.”

After Grinnell

“I applied to Teach for America during my senior year, and after teaching middle school English in Miami, I realized that I loved what I was doing and wanted to return to the city I grew up in. I taught for a year in the KIPP charter network in East LA, where educational equity and justice are issues. Through Teach for America, I became aware of the XQ Institute and helped to write the proposal to fund RISE High. The XQ grant was an intense competition, and receiving the award was a huge dream. In my role as assistant principal at RISE High, I consistently push for equity for our kids, with their voices — that’s self-gov. Grinnell’s writing- and rich discussion-based education has helped me teach writing to youth and help them be prepared for an exceptional college environment.”

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