Keeping up with the KIPPsters

I had the pleasure of visiting two KIPP campuses this week, KIPP WAYS and KIPP Vision, together serving just over 900 students in elementary and middle school. kippsters14

KIPP WAYS Academy is an APS charter school housed in the former Herndon Elementary facility.  Dwight Ho-Sang is in his fourth year as the school’s principal and leads a stellar team of teachers, co-teachers and a great group of kids in the intermediate school. He took me by Ms. Jones’ 7th grade English class, where students were writing – prompted by some pretty heavy topics such as child sex trafficking and the “Black Lives Matter” campaign.  Ms. Jones is a member of a unique program at KIPP where new teachers shadow veteran instructors for one year, eventually teaching the class themselves. The kids were having some pretty robust conversations in small groups, respectfully discussing their topics as they wrote.  kippsters11

Over at KIPP Vision, it was obvious that Steve Jones, the academy school leader and Tasha Davis, lower school Dean, have a great time working with their students at KIPP Vision.  This was my first time visiting the school which was founded in 2010 and has 423 students. Vision is currently located in the former APS Waters Elementary School and has been there since its founding year.

There was so much color throughout the school – take a look at their wonderful reading nook below for kindergarten students! I loved the energy in the school and the banners that displayed positive affirmations.

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The KIPP curriculum is modeled after the highly successful Knowledge is Power Program “KIPP.” KIPP has been recognized as one of the country’s top urban educational programs, closing the achievement gap for students from low-income demographic areas.

kippsters2At KIPP Vision, I visited a first grade class where I was impressed with the “Amazing Words” wall and the posted schedule of activities.  In the sixth grade village I sat through a Language Arts class where students were studying the vocabulary of World War I.  The school is growing and school leaders showed me the former media center that will be turned into four classrooms this summer.

I love to travel and immerse myself in learning about other cultures, so I was excited to hear that local and international travel and service projects are woven into the KIPP culture. KIPP WAYS’ Sounds of Royalty Band performed over spring break in South Africa and the 8thgraders were in Puerto Rico when I visited.  The younger students are headed to New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and Camp High Rocks in North Carolina over the next two weeks. kippsters19

This is KIPP WAYS’ 3rd year in a partnership with Big Brother, Big Sister sponsored by the Chick-Fil-A Foundation, and their third year in a partnership with Morehouse College to sponsor the Young Entrepreneur Club where students learn about starting their own business.  We are so grateful to our business partners throughout Atlanta who give such great opportunities to students.kippsters21

At Vision I asked Principal Jones about the beautiful banner hanging in the Strive hallway that read “Nyansapo.” It is a West African Adinkra symbol known as a wisdom knot – and for the kids of KIPP, Principal Jones says it is a reminder to students that every choice has a consequence and that they are charged with making positive choices that will yield positive outcomes.  What a powerful reminder for students to see every day.

Before I left KIPP WAYS, I spent a little time in a 5th grade English class where students were giving their end-of-the-year speeches.  They spoke passionately, as 5th graders usually do, about the funniest moments of the year, their accomplishments over the past school year and what they hope to get from 6th grade.  One young lady even took the opportunity to give her teacher a shout out, saying, “Essays are not as hard as they seem, once Byrd teaches you.”

What a beautiful sentiment and an awesome way to end the school year.  Safe travels Kippsters and stay positive! See you next school year.

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