KIPP gearing up for first year

ByMaisie Wright (op-ed)

As the founding School Director of KIPP Blytheville, I’ve spent most of my time lately recruiting students for our first class of fifth graders. I’ve been going door-to-door throughout Mississippi County to tell parents about KIPP’s network of tuition-free public charter schools and let them know that we will open our first Blytheville school this July. I met recently with a fourth grader and his family to explain KIPP’s educational philosophy. The boy didn’t say much, but he listened intently to every word we said. He was biting his upper lip, trying to hide his growing excitement. When we said, “Our school will work with you to make sure you go to college,” a giant smile lit up his whole face, and his eyes shone. His mother signed him up on the spot. As we left, both mother and son shook our hands, looked us in the eye, and said, “Thank you.”

I first came to the Arkansas Delta with Teach For America in 2006 to teach at KIPP Delta College Preparatory School, the KIPP school in Helena. I didn’t know much about KIPP before I got to KIPP Delta but was immediately struck by the excitement and hope I saw throughout the school. As a KIPP teacher, I learned that when you set your expectations high in the classroom, Delta students will rise to meet them. By giving kids a longer school day and year, a support network of committed teachers, and a focus on excellence, KIPP Delta is eliminating excuses for educational inequality and fulfilling its mission to prepare all students for college. After spending a year as a Fisher Fellow, preparing to open a new KIPP Delta school, I’m excited to bring KIPP’s success to Blytheville.

When KIPP Delta considered where to open our next school in the region last year, Blytheville’s bid stood out from all the others. Over sixty community members in Blytheville wrote personal letters pledging their commitment to KIPP’s mission and success. As our new KIPP school prepares to open this summer, we aim to build on the promise of that community support. We also look forward to working with other public schools to help raise student achievement across the district. KIPP is making a long-term commitment to Blytheville, and we are proud to play a part in improving education in Mississippi County.

We are continuing to recruit potential fifth graders before KIPP’s enrollment lottery on June 1st. KIPP Blytheville is an open-enrollment public school, and there are no requirements for admission other than a willingness to work hard and a desire to climb the mountain to college. So if you see me around town, knocking on doors, just know that I’m looking for more kids like that quiet fourth grader with the big smile. I can’t wait to start helping students build a bright future at KIPP Blytheville, college and beyond.