Why I Pursued the Miles Family Fellowship

By Michael Horne, Miles Family Fellow, KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth

As the father of a one-year-old child, I am constantly amazed by the sheer excitement and earnestness with which my daughter approaches each day. Whether it was sliding down the slide for the first time, learning to use a fork and spoon, or opening a colorful book, my daughter sees what may seem like challenges as opportunities. Of course, while I would like to believe that my daughter’s fearlessness is a family trait passed down over generations, I know that it is the result of a multitude of adults who are equally committed to helping ensure my daughter grows up into a healthy, respectful, and productive individual.

The dreams that I have for my daughter—becoming a scientist or an economist and college president—are the similar to dreams that all parents irrespective of race or socioeconomic status have for their children.  As a teacher in Brooklyn, New York, and Roxbury, Massachusetts, I was humbled by the commitment that parents made to see their children, my students, overcome all obstacles. I also knew that parental engagement required an equal commitment from teachers—teachers who maintain high expectations for their students and themselves, develop and deliverer rigorous and engaging curricula, and forge positive and affirming relationships with their students. Having experienced this personally and professionally, I was extremely excited about the prospect of working at KIPP TRUTH Academy in Dallas, TX as a Miles Family Fellow.

In addition to storing away my winter arsenal of shovel, ice breaker, and salt—items I have religiously used in New York and Boston—I was intrigued by the role that KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) is playing in shaping the education reform discourse. For far too long, the children and families of Dallas have faced persistent achievement and opportunity gaps that have threatened their ability to fully participate in the future of this city and for that matter, country. And while the dominant conversation around changing business as usual in public education may be mired in old political debates pitting charters versus traditional schools, Dallas has, through the efforts of organizations like KIPP DFW, begun to see the possibilities that exist when we place children’s’ possibilities and potential above that of adults.

As a KIPP Miles Family Fellow and Dean at KIPP TRUTH Academy, I have been afforded the opportunity to join a school-community that is relentlessly pursuing academic excellence. There were several reasons that informed my decision to apply to the Miles Family Fellowship:

  1. The two-year leadership pathway allows me to critically examine my own leadership profile. With the help of the KIPP School Leadership Programs team and my Miles cohort members, I am challenged (and challenge myself) to motivate individuals in a way that always puts students first.
  2. Additionally, my leadership development is not independent of schools. Rather, working as a Dean at KIPP TRUTH Academy, I am able to, in real-time, apply the knowledge that I have gained building the organizational capacity of the teachers and students I support.
  3. Lastly, the power to lead as a core KIPP principle is only meaningful to the extent that leaders have a clear vision for how they intend to motivate others to achieve shared goals. The power of the Miles Family Fellowship has been unparalleled and has enabled me to envision the type of school I want to build and lead.

In 1964, R&B singer and songwriter Sam Cooke prophetically pronounced that something different was going to happen. Singing in his signature tenor voice, Cooke boldly declared that “it has been a long time coming, but a change is gonna come.” Indeed, in the decades that have transpired since the battles for equity and equality during the Civil Rights Movement, many things have changed. Nonetheless, there is more work to be done, and in the spirit of helping all children realize their academic potential, irrespective of race or zip code, KIPP DFW continues to press on, changing education expectations in Dallas-Fort Worth.

I am excited about this journey and look forward to sharing my experiences and lessons learned each month through this blog.

The Miles Family Fellowship is a two-year pathway to found one’s own KIPP school that includes a year of leadership development and experience while teaching in a KIPP school. After successfully completing the first year, participants are invited to apply for the Fisher Fellowship to found and lead a new KIPP school in an underserved community. Learn more about KIPP School Leadership Programs