Teach For America–South Carolina Establishes First Advisory Board

Board Appointees Will Work to Grow Local Efforts for Educational Equity


North Charleston, S.C., October 1, 2015—Teach For America announced today the launch of a regional advisory board, with Debra Sonkin, founder of Search Advisory Group, serving as board chair. Joining as members are Mike Couick, CEO of SC Electric Cooperatives; Patricia Crawford, former SVP of Enterprise Diversity and Inclusions at Wells Fargo Bank; Charlene Keys, area vice president of Time Warner Cable South Carolina; and Terry Richardson, partner of Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman, LLC. As part of Teach For America’s first advisory board in the region, members will help to oversee the development of the vision and strategy of Teach For America–South Carolina’s work toward ensuring all students have access to an excellent education.  

“Debra Sonkin and Mike Couick have been instrumental as founding board members in helping us to build a great advisory board here in South Carolina,” said Teach For America–South Carolina executive director Josh Bell. “Our board holds rich perspectives and diverse experiences that will help to steward our organization and build a strong network of supporters throughout the state.”   

Debra Sonkin, board chair, brings a career as a Wall Street and executive search professional with Heidrick + Struggles and Russell Reynolds Associates to Teach For America–South Carolina’s board. After consulting with several Teach For America regions on their nationwide searches for executive directors, Debra was introduced to Teach For America–South Carolina. For the past year, she has provided strategic coaching to the region, and will continue to be an asset in building a sustainable board and funding base. 

Mike Couick learned about Teach For America when his daughter joined the 2012 Dallas-Fort Worth corps. Through her experience, he became interested in supporting Teach For America’s work in his home state of South Carolina. Following a career as chief of staff for the SC Senate Judiciary Committee, Mike became CEO of the SC Electric Cooperatives in 2005. He is passionate about contributing to Teach For America’s efforts to build a diverse, homegrown corps of teachers for high-need communities in the state.

Patricia Crawford, a former national board member at Teach For America, brings insights from her career as an executive in banking and public policy. A South Carolina native, Crawford chose a trailblazing path by integrating a formerly all-white high school as a student. Her ability to foster inclusive practices and build teams which value diversity made her a dynamic leader at Wells Fargo Bank, where she worked closely with the CEO. 

Charlene Keys is a telecommunications executive and is widely respected for her leadership in South Carolina. As a board member of Benedict College, United Way of the Midlands, the Columbia Urban League, and the Central Carolina Community Foundation, Keys generously gives of her time, insight, and resources. Her son recently completed his two-year commitment as a New York City corps member and continues to teach today. Keys is eager to support Teach For America–South Carolina’s initiatives to make a difference for students in the years ahead.

Terry Richardson is a champion of educational justice in South Carolina. He and his wife helped establish the Francis Marion University Center for the Child, a high-quality learning lab for early childhood education. Richardson cares about seeing educational transformation in rural communities, such as his native Barnwell, S.C.  As a widely-respected attorney, he has a statewide network of business, political, and educational leaders who respect his thoughtful approach to solving problems. 

“I’ve had the pleasure to work with Teach For America’s national organization for several years and it is now a privilege to be able to work for students here in South Carolina,” said Debra Sonkin. “Teach For America is an important community partner helping to bring talented leaders to our highest-need communities.”  

Teach For America joined the South Carolina education community in 2011 with 30 inaugural corps members. Today, there are over 160 corps members reaching approximately 13,000 students in Florence, Pee Dee, and the Lowcountry communities. Teach For America–South Carolina has initiated a new program called RiseSC, which is committed to increasing the number of corps members with ties to South Carolina serving in high-need and rural communities, and fueling a long-term commitment to educational excellence in our state. The organization provides a pipeline of teachers to work in high-need classrooms including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses, which are traditionally hard-to-fill positions for partnering school districts. Last school year, more than 20 corps members received Teacher of the Year or Rookie Teacher of the Year recognition at their respective schools, including four first-year corps members who were chosen as First Year Teacher of the Year in Williamsburg County.

About Teach For America
Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational inequity. Today, 10,600 corps members are teaching in 50 urban and rural regions across the country while more than 37,000 alumni work across sectors to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.