I Stand Before You as a Product of Resilience

Kendall Tidwell fearlessly, and without notes, shared his story of going “on beyond” to a group of 6,500 adults at KIPP School Summit. We’re sharing his video here, along with the transcript below, so more people can hear and be inspired by his story. 

Good morning. My name is Kendall Tidwell, a proud member of the class of 2015 at KIPP Sunnyside High School. I stand before you today as a product of resilience. I tell you today that I’ve been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent but never broken.

Some of my early difficulties were: experiencing the foster care system, having a parent who suffered from mental illness and drug abuse, being a child of an incarcerated parent, and having no identity. When I thought that “hope” didn’t know my address, something special happened. My Grandmother gained custody of my sister and me, giving us a stable environment in which to learn and grow.

I was finally feeling like a kid… a role that until then had been unfamiliar. The first year living with my Grandmother, she placed me in a new mentoring program called the U.S. Dream Academy. The great thing about this new direction in my life was that I was becoming more open and I started to trust adults again.

This was the first time I was surrounded by positive men that looked like me. One of those mentors was Coach Walter who taught students about social emotional intelligence, the ability to monitor and label emotions appropriately, and to use emotional information as a guide to communicate your feelings, ideas, and experiences in a way that everyone will understand. Learning these skills made me feel like a whole person. Building my emotional vocabulary helped me to look at all of the pain that I endured and develop a new perspective on my pain. A perspective that specifically honored the power of forgiveness; learning to forgive myself for feeling hopeless and forgive the adults who failed me.

I actually started my journey with KIPP in sixth grade at KIPP Liberation and then on to KIPP Sunnyside High School where I am a rising senior. I have learned the organizational skills, professionalism, and strong work ethic we all need to be successful. There were times, however, when I thought I could not meet the high expectations of my KIPP teachers. Through leaning on my teachers and teammates I not only survived, but thrived at KIPP. I did not feel defeated by these challenges, I learned to plow on and push through.

With the support of my family, my mentors, and my time at KIPP I am ready to go to and through college. I plan to major in sociology and minor in psychology or theater. I eventually want to earn a master’s degree and become an advocate for the children, specifically young men of color and children with incarcerated parents, who share my story and need people (like I had) to support them on a road to success.

You see, my story, although filled with challenges is one of resilience, grit and determination. KIPP went “On Beyond” for me by exposing and creating opportunities to push me—like this one today. 🙂 I know that I must pay it forward in gratitude to my grandmother, aunt and my team and family to go “On Beyond” for the students behind me.

Last summer I wrote my mother who is currently in prison. I forgave her for everything I endured in my youth. I never felt more free and light in my life.

What I’ve learned is this: forgiveness opens up your heart so it can receive more love and pay attention to the people in your life who are helping you reach your goals. Before KIPP I thought I would never be capable. I thought my circumstance would dictate my future. It was because of my family (both birth family and KIPP family) that the hope and faith in myself, my ability and my purpose was restored.

So to KIPP I say thank you for 20 years of going On Beyond Z for us. Because of what we have learned from you, we can now go On Beyond for others.

Thank you and have a great Summit!


To hear more stories from KIPP School Summit 2014, click here > 


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