By Donnell Bailey, Franklin & Marshall Student, KIPP New Orleans Alumnus
My name is Donnell Bailey. I am a proud alumnus of KIPP New Orleans and a current junior at Franklin & Marshall College. I serve as F&M’s student body President, and last summer I interned at the White House. The summer before that, I interned for U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu.
Ten years ago, before I joined the KIPP family, the mere idea of these opportunities did not exist in my universe.
I grew up in the Fifth Ward of New Orleans, one of the country’s most underserved communities. Only one in ten students from communities like mine is expected to graduate from college. I was born into a failing education system that did not nurture my potential, and by August 2005, the start of my 5th grade year, I was struggling to keep up.
Four weeks into the school year, our city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the violence of neglect that came with it. My family evacuated to Houston the day before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. There, my uncle enrolled me in KIPP New Orleans West, a school for students displaced by the hurricane. At first I was deeply skeptical of the energetic teachers, classroom chants, and carrying around all those binders. I did not adjust to this change overnight. It took months, and even years for me to process the unconditional love my peers and I received. At the time, I had no clue what college was or what it meant, and I never would have imagined where my education would lead.
When I returned to New Orleans, KIPP leveled the playing field for me to pursue possibilities from which young people are far too often excluded because of where they live. A KIPP education broke down those barriers and opened the door for me to attend one of the top private schools in Louisiana, Metairie Park Country Day School, where I became the first in my family to go to college.
From being the first in my family to go to college to interning for the President of the United States, I believe these opportunities are not only a result of a great education but also the result of an education based on fairness, justice, and love. And because of this education, though I was once written off, I can now write my own story.
The other night, a KIPP alumna from New York City and I shared our KIPP stories. What we had in common was that our stories were filled with people who showed a deep commitment to seeing us through both the good days and the mountains we had to climb to get to where we are today.
People like you.
Thank you for helping KIPP—and students like me—even the odds.