Music changed my life.
Growing up in Atlanta with my grandmother and two brothers, there wasn’t much that excited me about school. But that all changed when I started at KIPP. KIPP helped me find my passion; it was there, in the 5th grade, that I picked up a trombone for the first time. Over the course of my next eight years at KIPP, I traveled around the world with the marching band, performing everywhere from New York to South Africa to Trinidad to Jamaica and more. I was a founding member of our high school band and went on to become section leader my freshman through senior years. One person in particular helped me along this journey, using music to mold me into the man I am today: Mr. Washington, my band director.
Mr. Washington has been with me the entire way, from that moment at KIPP WAYS Academy when I first discovered music, to today, halfway through my senior year at Howard University. He has never stopped pushing me to be my absolute best, as a musician and as a person. The summer before my freshman year, it was Mr. Washington—a Howard alum himself—who drove me up to Washington, DC, and moved me into my dorm room (alongside Caleb, my roommate and best friend from 5th grade at KIPP). I am proud to walk the same halls as Mr. Washington did years before. We share so much: a love of music, professors at Howard, friends in DC, and even a college major—music business.
At Howard, I’ve continued to grow my network, explore the music field, and expand my horizons—I’m proud to say I’ve recently added “entrepreneur” to my resume. To date, I’ve built three businesses: my own DJ company, working everything from political fundraisers to campus-wide social events; Sunset Paradise Publishing LLC, a music publishing house for songwriters of color; and the Black Man Lab, a mentorship program for young black men in Atlanta. I couldn’t have gotten here without the passion, grit, and commitment KIPP helped me hone. I like to say, “it always seems impossible until it’s done,” and I know I’m just getting started.
I hope that one day I can make as big a difference in a young person’s life as Mr. Washington has made in mine. That is why, every summer, I go back to Atlanta to help with the band. I tell them I used to be a kid wearing a KIPP polo too. KIPP feels like home to me. My dream is to return to my high school as a band director, so that I can bring the power of music to the lives of other young people.
I believe in KIPP and wear my KIPPster title as a badge of honor.
KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Class of 2016
Howard University, Class of 2020