Bulldogs Gameweek: KIPP Vision Academy


During his time in Athens as a UGA basketball player in the mid-‘90s, Steve Jones learned the value of hard work and dedication under coaches Hugh Durham and Tubby Smith. Now he’s taking that same drive from the court to the classroom. Our Heather Catlin explains.

HEATHER CATLIN: The school’s values are painted on every wall. Each classroom is named after the college the teacher inside attended. But KIPP Vision is more than just a college-prep middle school. It’s a dream come true for former Georgia basketball player Steve Jones.

STEVE JONES: I always had desired to open up a school for-especially-young boys in urban settings. That’s always been a dream of mine.

TUBBY SMITH: Steve was emphatic about wanting his own school. Now that he’s able to have his own little charter school, it’s just amazing.

HEATHER CATLIN: In the early 90s, Jones dedicated his life to the Bulldog Nation. He thrived in the team atmosphere and knew that if he wanted to play, he had to earn it.

STEVE JONES: When I was at UGA, you know, I was a scrum my first year, so I had to earn the right to actually be, you know, be on the team.

HEATHER CATLIN: Today, as the founding principal of the charter school KIPP Vision, Jones is now teaching that same lesson to a group of Atlanta students he calls “Visionaries.”

STEVE JONES (to students): Young Visionaries, you have made it to the village.

STEVE JONES: The whole philosophy of, at KIPP, you have to earn your classroom, you have to earn your chair, it teaches children on a higher level that everything in life is earned, and that if you want anything in life, no matter how big or small, you have to work hard for it.

HEATHER CATLIN: KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program, a network of almost 100 high-performing charter schools around the nation. While 80 percent of KIPP’s students are eligible for federal meal programs, the school’s mission is to prove that demographics does not define destiny. Jones expects his Visionaries to follow in the success of other KIPP graduates.

STEVE JONES: For us, college is not just an option-I mean, that’s just what we do at KIPP, we go to college.

HEATHER CATLIN: More than 85 percent nationwide have gone to college, and over $25 million in scholarship money has been earned since 2000. And, as KIPP Visionaries, students are learning more than just what comes from a book.

SERETHA RAMSAY, KIPP VISION PARENT: They try to help the kids, and they create them to be better individuals, they teach them diligence, respect. They teach them not to just be by yourself, to try to create a unity as one. I really love it.

STEVE JONES: When I was playing at Georgia, coach Hugh Durham and coach Tubby Smith, they didn’t expect anything less than your best. So, I think I take the same attitude from UGA, playing ball there. Now we’re preparing our children to win at the game of life.

HEATHER CATLIN: Government funding pays for KIPP Vision’s basic operating costs, but they heavily rely on private donations. Right now the school has no air conditioning-as you can see, the copper wiring has been stolen, and the air conditioning’s just been completely destroyed. They’re also looking to buy a new roof. So, if you have a few dollars to spare, please go to their website at kippmetroatlanta.org.