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KIPP alumnus Deric Gassaway is successful at St. Mary's College of Maryland

KIPP alumnus Deric Gassaway
KIPP alumnus Deric Gassaway
at St. Mary's College of Maryland

KIPP DC's first school, KEY Academy, opened eight years ago in the basement of a church in Southeast D.C. Deric Gassaway was in KEY's inaugural class. Today, he's midway through his first year at St. Mary's College of Maryland (a top ranked, all-honors liberal arts school.) Eight years ago, this fifth grader was more focused on just getting to college than what he would be doing in college. Now, the freshman is an economics major focusing on business and a future in fashion. Earlier this month, Deric made room in his very tight schedule to talk to the KIPP Foundation about focus, fashion and life after KIPP.

Here's what he told us.


Sum yourself up in five words: I can give you one - focused.

What is the one thing that got you to where you are today? I developed my study habits. I didn't always have great study habits, I struggled with that. But I learned to go to my teachers and ask for advice about how I should study. In eleventh grade, I had a mentor that helped me to figure out a system that really works for me. I go to class during the day, I dedicate the afternoon to studying and then I can afford to spend my nights and weekends being more relaxed. If I cram the work into the afternoons I can get it done.

So how does that system fit into college life? I have a strict schedule. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I have class from 9 a.m. to 11:50. Then I eat lunch and work out and then do homework from 2:30 until 6 p.m. then it’s dinner and I spend the night relaxing with my friends. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I work in the admissions office in the morning and then go to class from 12 to 4. I study until 6:30, eat dinner and then hang out. Class got canceled today, that's why I can talk right now.

That sounds like focus. Yes!

Fashion (and Economics)

Why did you pick St. Mary's? It was sort of an accident, I really wanted to go to New York to study fashion but my high school advisor kept pushing for St. Mary’s. At first, I applied just so he’d stop asking. But then I started doing more research and found out St. Mary’s is an all-honors program and I liked that. I also started to switch my focus from fashion to business and economics. Partly, I wanted to understand what was happening in our economy but I also saw that I wanted a strong economics background to take with me into fashion. Now, I’ll major in economics and move onto fashion in the summers or when I am done at St. Mary’s.

What's your fashion background? I'm interested in everything—all the business side stuff, but I also did some designing in high school. St. Mary's has a fashion club and I'm a part of that. I'm still going into fashion, I'm just getting there from a different way.

KIPP Continued

Deric Gassaway
Deric Gassaway

How did KIPP help prepare you for college? KIPP set the main frame—it gave me the mindset that if I work hard, I can pretty much do anything I want with my life. Yes, it was pretty difficult coming in; there was a lot of homework and rigorous curriculum. The traditional public school I could have gone to just couldn’t compare with that. KIPP also gave me the individual attention and support I needed to be successful.

Is there any one person who really stands out in your memory of KIPP? Sarah Hayes. She's the principal at KEY Academy now, but she was my fifth grade math teacher. She helped me to work hard and really pushed me - she always supported me. I'm still in contact with her - not often, but when I get the chance I email her and check in/catch up. I know she would give me advice if I needed it. And I haven't had to ask her for it yet, but she'd help me with Econ. homework too.

What would you tell other students thinking about attending KIPP? If they go to KIPP, they are destined to succeed.


So if you stick to your study schedule, you have some free time on the nights and weekends. What do you do with it? I play basketball. I might like to join the St. Mary's basketball team in my sophomore year. I've always dreamed about playing college ball, but I wanted to wait and see if I had the time. I chose not to do a lot of outside activities when I started here, because I wanted to focus on my studies first.

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