Richard Barth's Weekly Thoughts: Graduation Celebration

ByRichard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO

        KIPP Memphis Collegiate High School Graduation. Photo by Mark Weber

As I send my note this morning, I know that may of you are kicking off your summer break. I know how hard you all have worked this year, a year like no other Your commitment to our KIPPsters has never shined more brightly. And my biggest wish is that you take this time in the coming weeks to rest and renew. I have said this before and I will say it again: we are running a marathon. And this year we have encountered challenges we’ve never seen before, and it is pushing us to be more flexible and adaptable than we ever imagined. But everywhere I look I see you meeting this moment – on behalf of over 100,000 KIPPsters…thank you!

One of the big marathon markers is high school graduation. In past weekly thoughts I have been able to share amazing images and video clips from graduations we held across the country. This week I am excited to be able to share something truly special!

Celebrating the Class of 2020

Last weekend, we held an incredible virtual KIPP Graduation Ceremony via Facebook Live. This was the first time we have done a virtual graduation event of this kind, and I was just blown away at how it all came together. It was so exciting and inspiring to watch people from all throughout the KIPP community gather to celebrate our 6,000 graduating seniors from the Class of 2020. We heard from half a dozen alumni presenters from across the KIPP network, watched performances by KIPP students from Atlanta and DC, and welcomed special guests including Angela Duckworth, Lester Holt, and Wyclef Jean.

I want to give a huge shout-out to all of the people who made this special celebration possible! Special kudos to Chad Spader and Ashley Huerta from the KIPP Foundation, who made some magic happen in order to pull off this virtual event. Click here or on the picture above to watch the video of the whole thing—it’s well worth your time!

Summer Professional Development for Teachers and Leaders

Our summer professional development sessions have also gone virtual! This month, STEM teachers from across the network are coming together to learn and grow. Here’s a brief summary of the sessions to date:

Amplify Science

Our signature “3D PD” went virtual — and it was awesome! Nearly 100 Teachers and Leaders first explored their “Why” behind science teaching, dove deep into the pedagogical underpinning of the curriculum, and went from unit/lesson level internalization to small-group teach-backs… all on Zoom! From Albany to SoCal, Jacksonville to Chicago, participants spent 4 days learning and building community.

FIRST Robotics

COVID couldn’t stop our FIRST Robotics coaches from turning a phenomenal in-person program into an engaging online training. Our FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge Coaches kicked off the 20-21 season with a Core Values challenge, then passed around the mic to hear from veteran FIRST Coaches across the network. With so many unknowns around FIRST Competitive Competitions this fall, we are proud of the joy, energy, and passion our Coaches are bringing to our Summer PD.

Math 101

This week, our Math 101 sessions got under  way for teachers and regional leaders as well. The Math 101 training took the success of the past two years and moved it virtual, as teachers and leaders from across the network explored what it means to approach math as a coherent story across grade levels.

I am so grateful to our events team, who has switched gears and created first-class virtual trainings for our teachers and leaders this summer. It’s been a change from previous years, but we’re really excited about how these trainings have turned out.

Supporting Mental Health Services

The past six months have deepened the already-urgent need for robust mental-health services in our KIPP communities. With the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing economic crisis, and white-supremacist violence and police brutality on Black and Latinx communities, we are seeking out ways to help provide comprehensive mental-health support through our KIPP schools and regions.

I’m proud to announce that the KIPP Foundation has raised $5 million towards expanding mental-health and trauma-support services across the KIPP network. We know that our students, families, and communities have immediate needs and we are working with our regional leadership teams to invest the dollars into the field.

And I want to end this note highlighting our young generation who are leading the way in social justice. The Black Student Union at KIPP Generations Collegiate in Houston was featured in the New York Times for their involvement in the social justice movement.

These tenth grade student have come up with a storybook for literacy program to create reading spaces where students can get books and read at their leisure and Letters for Justice – a letter writing campaign to share their personal experiences with elected officials even though they can’t vote.