Clemson University Feature Stories

Fighting for students’ voices to be heard

Perry AustinBy Crystal Boyles
Creative Services

On some days, Perry Austin will tell you he doesn’t sleep. Too much schoolwork to do. Too many lives to impact.

He’s studying religion and its relationship with politics. He’s leading charges for policy change on campus. He’s editing papers, making sure those pesky commas are where they should be. Oh, and he’s graduating Clemson, writing a senior thesis and preparing for his job.

It’s a miracle he sleeps at all.

During his time at Clemson working with Student Government, Austin found that he enjoyed working for students, fighting for what’s in their best interest. This fall, Austin will take this passion to the classroom, as he joins the Teach for America Corps.

“I’m excited to meet the students I’m going to have, and I’m excited to see what I’m going to learn from them,” said Austin, who will graduate with a degree in political science.

Teach for America’s goal is to eliminate educational inequality by developing classroom leaders who will fight for students and who will help close the education gap between low-income children and wealthier peers.

After extensive training and professional development, including a five-week training institute in Oklahoma this summer, Austin will be teaching high school English at a Teach for America school in Charlotte. A nice fit for a guy who insists that grammar be correct; but more than that, he wants his students to understand that clear communication is key to advancing your career.

Clemson Corps Members
  • 32 alumni are currently in the Corps
  • At least 14 graduating seniors will be joining the Corps
  • Last year, 5.5 percent of the senior class applied to Teach for America
  • Applications from Clemson have increased by 537 percent since 2007

“If you can’t communicate your thoughts clearly, no one is going to take you seriously,” Austin said. “In what career field today do you not have to write a memo or an email?”

After his two-year commitment to Teach for America is up, Austin isn’t sure what he’ll do. So far, he’s contemplating law school or higher education administration. Who knows, he could end up retiring from teaching. No matter his course, it all started at Clemson.

“It’s bittersweet leaving, but it’s time for my next step.”

The Teach for America application deadline is Feb. 15. If you’re interested in joining or have any questions about Teach for America, contact Joey Maxwell at or Eric Giles at

Know someone or something you think we should write about on the Clemson website? Email your idea to writer Crystal Boyles at

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