Meet the Neighbors: Scott Shirey, Helena- West Helena

ByAmanda Hoelzeman

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Scott Shirey—executive director of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in Helena — may have been born and raised in Massachusetts, but his heart has always been in the Delta.

After graduating from Colby College in Maine in the late 1990s, he joined Teach for America (TFA) with the hopes of connecting with a Delta community and helping students break down barriers and achieve success.

“Despite preferring the Delta, I was placed in Baton Rouge,” Shirey said. He taught there for three years before discovering KIPP. “I then spent a year doing the Fisher Fellowship (KIPP’s leadership training program) and preparing to open a school in Helena. I was the founding school leader for six years before transitioning to executive director, which I have been for four years.”

KIPP schools are free, open-enrollment public schools that prepare students in underserved communities for success in college. KIPP Delta in Helena is a part of this network; just one of 82 KIPP schools serving more than 21,000 students nationwide.

Shirey first discovered KIPP through a TFA email blast. “I had thought about school leadership, but at the time thought it would be in the future,” he explained. “I applied when I saw the KIPP recruitment advertisement and had the opportunity to visit KIPP Academy in Houston during the interview process. I fell in love with the program, and I guess they liked me well enough to select me as a leader,” he joked.

He must be doing something right. Shirey was recently ranked No. 4 on Forbes Magazine’s list of the “World’s 7 Most Powerful Educators,” and U.S. News & World Report also ranked KIPP Delta second in the state on its “Best High Schools” list.

While improving education in the Delta is one of Shirey’s earnest missions, the region holds a special place in his heart for another reason, too; his wife Angela is a Phillips County-native, and the couple has two little girls, Kennedy and Olive. “They are the best things that ever happened to me,” he said.  Local Flavor  Some of

Shirey’s Favorites

Where to eat:  House of Ribs – Terrific ribs and chicken!

What to do:  King Biscuit Blues Festival —October: Blues from the likes of Taj Mahal and Bobby Rush and delicious Southern food

Delta Cultural Center Located in historic downtown Helena-West Helena, this museum is dedicated to exploring the history of the Delta through exhibits, educational programs, tours and more.

Storm Creek Lake Fish for largemouth and hybrid striped bass, bluegill, red-ear sunfish, black crappie and blue and channel catfish.

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