Alexis attended KIPP TEAM Academy and graduated Newark Collegiate Academy in 2012. She enlisted in the Navy in 2015 and was stationed in San Diego, California. In honor of Veterans Day, we spoke with Alexis Andrews about her journey.
During your time in the Navy what was your day to day like?
Going as far as I legally can, I was a boatswain’s mate, which handles the ship’s maintenance and a helmsmen. As helmsmen, we drive the ship, we route the ship, and we work hand in hand with the CO, as well as the captain on ship maintenance and the pulling of anchor chains. You would think that there’s a manual way to pull up an anchor by now but it’s not possible. There’s long line of people physically pulling the anchor. It blows my mind.
What sparked your interest in joining the Navy?
The fact that the Navy pays for you to attend college is what sparked my interest. My friends often say, “you’re about the girliest girl we’ve ever seen what made you join the Navy?” and the real reason is school. Financially it made the most sense to me. I didn’t want to be forced into paying back Sallie Mae until I was old, so knowing that my education would be 100% covered by enlisting is what enticed me to join.
How did KIPP support you in your choice to join the Navy?
My school’s focus was making sure we got into college, which was perfect because I didn’t go straight into the military. I attended Kean University my freshman and sophomore year, and then I went into the service. Once I entered the service, one of my college advisors at KIPP Newark Collegiate kept in direct contact with me.
When you’re in boot camp and you have no communication with the outside world, and you see a letter from your advisor, it feels like they still care and that we’re still their babies. It meant so much to me when I would receive letters while I was stationed in California. After I did my time with the Navy and processed out, I was thinking of volunteering and working at KIPP schools while I would be working towards my degree. Briefly, volunteering with KIPP in San Diego was an awesome experience. I ended up, moving back to New Jersey but throughout my experience on the west coast I always maintained a direct relationship with KIPP.
What about your experience in the Navy do you think shaped you the most?
The ability to adapt to any situation of adversity and learning to accept people who come from different backgrounds has shaped me the most. It almost goes hand in hand with what we were taught at KIPP because at the end of the day when it all falls down, you have to depend on each other. I was able to learn to adapt to many different cultures and beliefs while still getting a job done and not making it personal.
It’s also taught me discipline being trained by the highest. I’ve been taking classes every semester since last spring, which is why I’m graduating so early. I’ve been taking five classes every semester, three classes during the winter and in the summer. The ability to spend my time where it needs to be and still be successful has shaped me tremendously.
What does being a veteran mean to you?
Being a veteran means everything to me. It’s a moment to remember all the work that you put in for the country and to have been a part of something so prestigious, it means everything.
What areas do you think our country can do better in supporting veterans?
I absolutely feel the country needs to do better with providing veterans with more opportunities to live and thrive after the military in the civilian world. There needs to be an extreme boost in concern for healthcare, housing, and financial opportunities for veterans.
Was there a person that made a difference in your life while a student at KIPP?
The closest person to me is Mr. Reagans. I’ve known Mr. Reagans since I was nine, I’m 25 now so that’s well over half of my life. I’m an adult now, and he respects me as such, but sometimes I still see him as that figure from when I was that nine-year-old girl. You hang onto their words, you trust their advice, and if they say, “We’re going to figure it out” they do. There’s never been a promise that’s ever been given to me that wasn’t fulfilled from KIPP. I have my new catering business, and for our KIPP alumni meetings, Mr. Reagans books me to cook. He can easily order pizza, but it’s about giving me the opportunity to see where it goes and that support always matters.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see myself at a KIPP school in the next 5 years. I’ll have my associates technically in April 2020, and I will be transferring to finish my last three years because I want to walk with my master’s as opposed to my bachelor’s. I feel like I would be an amazing Dean and I think so because I remember the type of love and relationship that I had growing up in high school at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy. I have to give back to KIPP some sort of way because they got me to where I am right now.