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Graduate hopes to make schools better for others


Tamara Murray hopes to use the experiences she had while attending school in NYC to one day help reform the educational system in inner-city schools. Murray will receive her BA in human development at Commencement this week and plans to attend NYU

Name: Tamara Murray
Degree: BA in Human Development
Plans: Attend New York University in the fall where she will study the sociology of education.

Some students don’t have it as easy as others, but for Tamara Murray, the obstacles she faced during her life have helped shape her into the person and leader she is today.

Born and raised in Harlem, Murray watched her parents, both alcoholics, die before she was 13. “I can remember growing up and wanting to be the opposite of my mother,” said Murray. She has few fond memories of her mother, who died when Murray was only six. She then rarely saw her father.

After her mother’s death, she and her older sister moved to the Bronx to live with her grandmother, who would become her biggest influence. From the South and with no formal education, her grandmother worked diligently as a nanny and a housekeeper to support the family.

From a very young age, the value of education was heavily stressed on Murray by her grandmother, who put all her hopes into the young girl who would become the first member of the family to attend college.

Murray remembers the few teachers who worked extra to help someone in need. Her third-grade teacher would take Murray to her house on Saturdays. With this teacher’s help, she learned and passed math, which seemed difficult at first.

“It was then that I realized how important teachers and good schools are for children who come from bad backgrounds,” Murray said. “They can be the only way out for some kids who have no one else helping them through life.”

Which is why the quality of schools has become such a crucial issue for her, ultimately shaping her career path and goals.

The middle school Murray attended had small classrooms and limited resources — not enough desks, textbooks that were falling apart, so cold during the winter that the students had to wear jackets during class. High school was an improvement since her principal and teachers were able to stretch the little available funding.

After high school graduation, Murray attended the College of New Rochelle. She had aspirations of becoming an elementary school teacher, but eventually became disappointed with the college and the local primary schools she observed. When her grandmother died during her freshman year, she was left with her one sister as her immediate family.

At her sister’s urging, she transferred to Binghamton, and although a little taken aback by its distance from New York City, the high value of the school’s education has won her over. She loves Binghamton, which prompted her to change her plans for the future.

Murray said the classes she has taken have given her insight into many of the problems with the primary and secondary public educational systems. She is against standardized testing because she feels that it often allows money to be denied to schools that need it and it breeds notions of inferiority within students who score low.

“I realized that I would like to go into policy analysis of school funding and reform because I really believe that money is not being distributed properly,” she said.

She has volunteered for the Alliance for Quality Education, a nonprofit group of activists, teachers and parents who work together to solve some of the funding problems in public education.

Yet, she also realizes that it will take much more than money to solve these problems. Last year, she examined the No Child Left Behind Act and its consequences for schools in the Binghamton area. She found the schools that have performed best in the face of budget cuts were those that galvanized the efforts of teachers, parents and administrators.

This fall, Murray plans to attend New York University, where she will study the sociology of education.

But, Murray also has other plans. In addition to helping reform the educational system, she hopes one day to establish a scholarship for students who have lost their parents and start a nonprofit music program to provide inner-city children with access to musical instruments and teachers.

“Tamara is an excellent researcher and a very thorough one,” said Diane Crews, SEHD adjunct lecturer. “I believe in the future she will provide leadership to educational opportunities for other students. Students like her will pave the way for others to come to Binghamton University and excel.”

For Murray, she firmly believes, unprecedented results can happen from places where they are least expected.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08