Why KIPP Has Retired ‘Work Hard. Be Nice’

By Dave Levin

Regarding your editorial “KIPP Wokes Up” (July 7): KIPP’s decision to retire our slogan “Work hard. Be nice.” has nothing to do with abandoning our standards and everything to do with meeting our community’s needs 25 years later. Last year, we gathered 6,000 students, alumni, families, teachers and school leaders to update our mission. In their stories, we heard a common theme: working hard and being nice did not sufficiently reflect the reality of their lives. Simply put, we all want a slogan that does.

Too many of our students work incredibly hard and get into the college of their dreams—only to face a massive tuition bill, the need to work multiple jobs and a lack of paid internships in most career tracks. And once they enter the workforce, they will still earn significantly less than their white peers, be twice as likely to be killed by police and, now, be disproportionately hospitalized or die from Covid-19. In a world where our students confront anti-blackness and systemic racism at every turn, KIPP’s slogan needs to reflect the importance of identity, excellence and the boldness needed to create a more just world.

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