By Dominique Young, Seventh Grade Literature, KIPP NYC
From as early as I can remember, I always felt like an extremely blessed and unique child; I technically was not supposed to be here since my parents were only 13 and 14 years old when I was born. Because THEY were still being raised when I arrived, I became the product of a village effort. Everyone from grandmas, aunts and uncles, to cousins, had a hand in my upbringing. KIPP became a MAJOR part of that village when I was 10 years old.
When I think about guiding students in developing the academic skills and strength of character needed to be successful, I cannot help but think about my KIPP teachers who have, at different times in my life, assumed the role of my teachers, my parents, my friends, my mentors, and my guardian angels. Whether I was getting into trouble or receiving a diploma or degree, my KIPP teachers were there, serving as one of the most important components of my support system, through every major experience of my life. I can recount numerous experiences with KIPP that have changed my life, but there’s one at the forefront of my mind, that embodies the idea of taking what I’ve learned through KIPP and leading my students into their futures.
In the summer of 2003, the summer before my senior year of high school, I worked as an intern at KIPP. It was my job to help prepare for the opening of KIPP STAR: the second KIPP school to be opened in New York City. On KIPP STAR’s opening day, I assumed my work there was complete so I went to KIPP Academy in the Bronx: the first KIPP middle school in New York City. My KIPP teachers turned me around at the door, explaining that I should be attending opening day since I had helped out. So I headed over to KIPP STAR.
Upon my arrival I saw news vans everywhere! I stepped off the elevator and Mayor Bloomberg was standing in the hallway of the school. As it turns out, there was a press conference happening at STAR in which Bloomberg was encouraging the city to embrace charter schools. I decided to take advantage of the obvious opportunity and strike up conversation with the mayor of New York. We talked about the colleges I was applying to, and he mentioned being friends with some of the administrators at those schools. In short, I saw an amazing opportunity in that conversation, and I took it; I was able to convince Mayor Bloomberg to write my college recommendations, which he did. My KIPP teachers were very proud.
Reflecting on that experience almost 10 years later, I can say that my KIPP teachers have ALWAYS preached to me, “Dominique, it’s not KIPP, it’s you. It is YOU who’s doing all the work. And it is YOU who has gotten yourself to this point.” I never understood that until the day I met Bloomberg at KIPP STAR. So now I understand and appreciate those statements from my KIPP teachers, but I WILL say…it was KIPP that taught me that it is ME.
It was KIPP that gave me confidence in my own abilities, and that is where it all comes full circle for me. Now I understand why I live, eat, and breathe KIPP. Now I understand why I was the first person in my family to go to college. Finally, I now understand how and why I was meant to touch the lives of my students; it has to be a part of my purpose in life to show kids the way academically and characteristically the same way my KIPP teachers did for me.
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