It was my son Deven’s second to last day of 6th grade when one of my work friends called and told me she was laid off.
She told me not to worry—that my job would be fine. But, sure enough, I got home and found the message on my phone. I was let go. It was a job I had taken right out of high school. I had been there for 35 years.
The next day, the very next day, I started to volunteer at KIPP.
I drove with my son to school, and I stayed and helped out from the moment school started until the moment it ended. I did a little bit of everything. I folded a lot of shirts. I cut a lot of oranges. And I became close to people. I would help kids who were having problems. I was like a mentor to them. And because I was older than a lot of teachers, I was like a mother to them!
I just wanted to be a part of what my son was a part of. And I stayed because it felt like family. Even the Executive Director made me feel important. So I volunteered because I had a place here. And I did that for two years.
Every single day.
At the end of my son’s eighth grade year, when he was about to move on to high school, the school went on an end of year trip. I had been thinking a little about money recently—my severance wasn’t going to last forever. And so there we were, on this trip, sitting around a campfire when the school leader came and sat by me. “Ms. Riley,” he said, “this is Deven’s last year. We’re gonna miss you. We would like to hire you.”
They made it clear to me that I was a part of KIPP. And I’ve been here ever since. KIPP was here for me just like I was here for them.