KIPP Delta Public Schools: School's many success stories are celebrated at the mansion

ByCary Jenkins

Teachers, students, board members and donors who helped make KIPP Delta Public Schools’ accomplishments possible gathered Nov. 21 for An Evening to Celebrate, a reception and dinner at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.

Phil Baldwin, who was cochairman of the host committee with his wife, Dee Dee, said the school began in 2002 with 65 fifth-graders. The school, a public college preparatory school in Helena-West Helena, now has 270 students in fifth through 11th grades. The school is part of the national Knowledge Is Power Program.

Students, many from the class of 2010, spoke about their experiences at the school. Most discussed where they plan to go to college and what they want to be when they grow up. The list included lawyers, actors, realtors, fighter pilots, sports agents and nurses.

Dominique Bragg of the class of 2010 said that because she attended the KIPP school since fifth grade, she will be able to compete with some of the topnotch students at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., where she wants to study ophthalmology. She added, “And yes, I will be coming back to Arkansas because I believe in my state.” Kyesha Ward, who plans to attend Spelman College in Atlanta and then become a pharmacist, said people often ask her why she stays at the KIPP school. She says she answers, “So I can go to college. When I get to college, no remediation is needed.” David Whitfield, who plans to attend the University of Memphis, said the school’s staff always stresses the importance of going to college. Bryan Scott, a member of the class of 2016 and one of the evening’s younger speakers, said since being at the school, his grades and behavior have improved. Scott said he wants to go to Texas Tech University in Lubbock and become a director of movies and commercials.

Morgan Whitfield, who plans to attend Columbia University in New York, said she used to be very shy but because of the “extreme devotion of teachers, I’ve become quite outspoken.” Scott Shirey, school director, noted that the students’ test scores have greatly improved, but that the students are not a number, test score or statistic. “KIPP Delta,” he said, “is a dream, and the KIPPsters are the dreamers. KIPP is the change, and KIPPsters are the agents of change.” He said the students are changing the old standard and creating a new one. They will be able to look back, Shirey said, and be able to say, “I changed the Delta.” The host committee included Michelle and Hugh McDonald, University of Arkansas System President Alan Sugg, Cathy and Ernest Cunningham from Helena and Angela Shirey.