Chris Eiswerth ’08
Harvard Law student seeks to reform education
by George Fitting ’10
July 14, 2010
Chris Eiswerth ’08 helps spruce up Collinwood High School in Cleveland during his recent stint with City Year’s Youth Service Corps.
When Chris Eiswerth ’08 was 16, he caught a glimpse of how the other half lives. The experience stayed with him through college, and now it’s shaping his career.
Eiswerth’s father had been a patient at the Cleveland Clinic, and Eiswerth had gone for a run one afternoon after visiting him. He received a rude awakening when he accidentally jogged into the ghetto that was only a few blocks away.
“I couldn’t forget what I’d seen, and ultimately, that run drew me back,” he said. “How could I watch as someone else went into schools and cities that have been given up on while I enjoyed the privileges and comforts of education?”
The former English major had planned to join the Navy after graduating from Dickinson, but a senior-year groin injury sustained at a cross country meet rendered him ineligible. Instead, he went to South Korea for a year to teach English but found the program unfulfilling.
When he returned to the United States, Eiswerth joined City Year, an Americorps organization focused in part on improving the public-education experience of inner-city students. City Year’s Youth Service Corps trains young men and women to be mentors, tutors, academic supporters and role models, as well as plan service and leadership programs.
Eiswerth went back to Cleveland and worked at Collinwood High School, which has a graduation rate of about 48 percent. Among other things, he tutored students for standardized tests, organized a youth summit attended by judges and local business leaders and was nominated to speak at the annual Idealism in Action luncheon.
“The teachers and principal couldn’t have been nicer,” he said. “They were there for the right reasons—education, not money.”
This fall, Eiswerth begins his first semester at Harvard Law School. He plans to use his degree to advocate for education reforms from inside politics—whether that means running for office, working as a staffer or writing policy papers. “If your inner cities become places where you put your poorest and least educated, it’s just going to become rot surrounded by wealth,” he said.