There is so much beauty in this world and if you look for it you will find it all around you. A shining example was last Friday night as my wife Michele and I attended the fifth annual KIPP DC PCS 2018 KIPProm. We headed over to Dock 5 at Union Market from which, appropriately, out the windows you can see KIPP DC College Prep High School.
We entered the event space to find KIPP teachers and supporters attired for an elegant night on the town. For men, black tie was the wardrobe of choice. There were open bars all around surrounded by waiters and waitresses passing appetizers appropriate for a party at a Ritz Carlton Hotel. Silent auction items for which guests could bid were lined up along the perimeter of the hall. At the conclusion of a fast-paced hour, it was time to transfer to the adjacent room for dinner and the formal program.
The KIPProm fundraiser supports the school’s College to Career Program. The night’s program explained why this effort is important:
“Every child deserves an excellent education and the opportunity to graduate from college and enter a rewarding career. Unfortunately, many children in the District of Columbia face a different reality and have limited access to quality educational options. KIPP Through College & Career is part of KIPP DC’s promise to students and families that we will foster the knowledge, skills, and mindsets needed to become thoughtful, intentional citizens in the competitive world. Our alumni have amazing potential and KIPP Through College & Career helps them navigate the world beyond KIPP DC and fully realize this potential.”
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Trauvello Stevenson, an emerging comedian who is also an alumna of KIPP DC Key Academy and is a teacher at KIPP DC Quest Academy, She directed us to a lesson plan covering the five keys to college persistence that include having a passion, purpose and plan; focusing on academics; actively networking and navigating; being financially fit; and knowing who you are.
The next portion of the agenda was fascinating. Situated around the room at various dinner tables were four former KIPP students who took turns standing at their seats to explain their backgrounds and experiences in college. Each of the five-to-ten minute perfectly articulate speeches brought tears to my eyes as these young adults passionately described the severe struggles they have faced in their lives and the adversity they have successfully overcome. We heard from Aaron Ford, 2017 graduate of Towson University; August Colbert, 2018 graduate of Bowie State University; Lawrence Davin, 2018 graduate of Radford University; and Toria Walker, 2015 graduate of Mount Holyoke College.
All of the remarks were amazing, but it was Ms. Walker whose words sent chills through my spine. She recalled growing up in Southeast D.C. where the quality of life experienced during her childhood was about as opposite as you can get from 99 percent of us reading this article. Of course, the notion of going to college when she was little was the equivalent of being transported to another planet. Her heroic efforts, together with KIPP DC, turned all of this completely around.
The current mantra of educators is that they are meeting students where they are. But in the case of Ms. Walker, this is literally what happened. She described her college adviser traveling across mountains to check up on her at Mount Holyoke. We learned that efforts like this are the norm, not the exception, when it comes to the higher education school supports provided by KIPP. College to Career has already raised $3.9 million in scholarships and grants for its 2018 graduating class.
Her story dovetailed perfectly with the conversation we had during the reception with our friend KIPP DC president and chief operating officer Allison Fansler. She explained that at the charter, 50 percent of their students are completing college once admitted. She is exceedingly proud of this statistic because across the country students with a background like Ms. Walker’s only earn a college degree 9 percent of the time. Still, KIPP DC, which now educates over 6,100 students on 16 campuses in six geographic regions of the city, is trying to figure out how raise this number even higher. It is a goal that I have no doubt this charter network will achieve.
It was now time for dancing. The event raised over $250,000.