By Deshay Walker, Capital University Student, KIPP Columbus Alumna
The late Maya Angelou once said, “In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care.” My name is Deshay Walker. I am an alumna of KIPP Columbus and a current freshman at Capital University, and my life today is the result of many people who cared.
When I was in third grade, I moved from South Carolina to Columbus, OH, and began attending the local public school in my neighborhood. From the start, I was bullied. That year, a girl in my class punched me in the stomach every day, and I feared the walk from school to home where classmates threatened me with violence. While I had teachers who cared, I understood quickly that you can’t learn when you don’t feel safe.
Seeing me struggle, my parents applied to KIPP and, in sixth grade, I got into KIPP Journey Academy. At KIPP, everything changed. Feeling safe in school, I was finally able to focus—which was important because my principal, Ms. Powell, made it absolutely clear from day one that, at KIPP, learning was our job.
While I was learning in the classroom, I was also learning about myself. I’d always loved to sing in church but was too shy to use my voice anywhere else. At KIPP, I found a friend who also liked music and my math teacher, Mr. Wood, would let us use his room at lunch and during breaks to sing together and practice. Little by little, I started singing in front of others and feeling more confident. Then, Ms. Powell asked me to become a Student Ambassador and I began giving school tours to visitors and speaking at events. At KIPP, I went from being a shy, afraid girl to a secure young woman who could stand up and speak in front of thousands.
During my time at KIPP, Mr. Wood became one of my biggest champions and mentors and with his help, I was accepted into a performing arts high school in Columbus where my creativity continued to be nurtured.
When it was time to apply to college, KIPP was there and the support I received meant everything. It’s easy to get discouraged when applying to college. When it all became too much, my KIPP family was there. My former teacher, Mrs. Thanos, was a constant, always there to cheer me on, encourage me and remind me of my purpose. My counselor, Ms. Reebak, would take me to Starbucks and sit with me while I filled out my applications. She’d remind me to slow down, not get overwhelmed, and take it one step at a time.
And I’m so glad I did. Today, I’ve just finished my first semester at Capital University and am on my way to earning my degree in education. My goal is to become a teacher and do just what Ms. Angelou said: Care. Really care. I am the product of people who cared and I can’t wait to do the same for others.
Thank you for caring about and believing in students like me.