De’Ja Wood, a KIPP St. Louis Public Schools alumna and former KIPP Capitol Hill Fellow, shares why it was important for her to contribute to the diversity of thought in offices on Capitol Hill.
By De’Ja Wood, KIPP St. Louis Public Schools ’13, Duke University ’21
Have you ever had an experience that truly shaped who you are? One that you knew would change your life even before it happened?
My name is De’Ja Wood, and last summer, I interned with the House of Representatives’ Education & Workforce Committee as part of the KIPP Capitol Hill Fellowship. As a college freshman aspiring to a career in social policy, I knew this firsthand look at how our country’s government works would shape my future.
I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work on the Hill without the support of my KIPP teachers and counselors. They met me in middle school, stuck with me all the way into college, and continue to help me find and open doors of opportunity.
I came to KIPP in 5th grade, as part of the founding class at KIPP Inspire Academy in St. Louis. I still remember how on my first day at KIPP, they told us we were going to college. And they never stopped telling us. My 5th grade teacher, Ms. Joyce, is now my KIPP Through College advisor. She was there for me all throughout high school, just like she is for all KIPP St. Louis families. Now that I’m in my freshman year, she helps me navigate the challenges of being a first-generation college student.
It was Ms. Joyce told me about a new fellowship the KIPP Foundation had started for KIPP alumni in college to do internships on Capitol Hill. “This is made for you,” she said and she encouraged me to apply.
As I was preparing to spend a summer in DC as a policy intern, I was excited to network, and to learn about the systems that shape our lives as Americans. I also looked forward to contributing to the diversity of thought in offices on the Hill. Because we can’t afford to work for free, it’s often difficult for students from low-income backgrounds to land career-launching internships like this one.
KIPP alumni have perspectives that the world needs to hear. The KIPP Capitol Hill Fellowship opens doors by breaking down barriers. I hope you’ll help open even more doors of opportunity for KIPP alumni like me.