Framed in her former classroom in Peoria, Teneisha Huley ’02, ’07  kept a letter she wrote to Illinois State’s School of Communication, which described what she wanted to do with her life: work with youth and enable them to have a better life.

“Reading that letter makes me emotional because I am actually doing it,” she said.

The alum is the program coordinator for Teacher Education and Access to College for High Schoolers (TEACH), which is part of the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP). The Pipeline is an office out of the College of Education that partners with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and community-based organizations in three diverse neighborhoods: Little Village, Albany Park, and Auburn-Gresham.

Her role has her wearing many different hats, all involving high school students.

“I love urban education and working with high school students,” she said. “Education is very fulfilling to me. That is what attracted me to the CTEP position. As a former teacher, I always encouraged my students to become teachers.”

Teneisha cares about students so much that she spends time helping them with all facets of life. Her Mondays are spent mentoring seniors by providing individualized postsecondary assistance, making sure they’re on a good path after finishing high school.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she facilitates a program for sophomore and junior girls at Farragut High School, which is part of the TEACH Club. She focuses on the ABCs: attendance, behavior and course passing, but she also includes a variety of social skills development, social-emotional health, and self-esteem.

The goal is for TEACH Club students to have access to college through campus visits to Illinois State, various college readiness workshops, and career speakers along with a service-learning project that encourages students to make a difference and solve problems in their community.

“I’m looking forward to seeing TEACH Club students go through the Pipeline programs, graduate, and return to their communities to be teachers or leaders in Chicago,” she said.

Right after graduating from Illinois State, Huley decided to stay in Central Illinois and taught in urban Peoria schools. “I have always had a heart for urban education, but I never considered my own community of Chicago, because I was never motivated in that direction. TEACH Club gives that message that you can be a leader in any career and have a voice in your community.”

She earned two bachelor’s degrees from Illinois State, in communication studies and speech communication education, which helped her immensely because she has to call on her communication skills in her work with diverse populations.

“Every Wednesday and Friday I am in or out of the office networking and building relationships with community officials, students, counselors, parents, professors on campus, and programs similar to ours throughout the city,” she said.

In a way, her work is that of a teacher. She is motivates students to consider college and moves them through the urban education program. Helping others believe in themselves is what motivates her.

“Students need to know that they can come back to their communities after college and make a difference,” she said. “Giving kids hope is important.”