Family Member

Erica Mitchell and Mikal Ellis

KIPP Parents Erica Mitchell and Mikal Ellis

I had Makayla when I was eighteen. Things could have gone one of two ways after that. I could have had more kids and gone deeper into poverty, or I could have pulled myself up.

Makayla…she changed me. I am the woman I am today—I am the person I am today—because of her. And the happiest day of my life was when I watched her graduate from eighth grade.

There were so many times when I didn’t know if I would ever see that moment. For so many years, I didn’t know where the next dollar would come from, let alone know where we might end up. So to see her walk down that aisle—to watch her on the path of becoming better than me—that was special.

Raising a child in the 21st century is extremely hard, but I’m doing it. I learned from my mom. With only a high school diploma, she raised three beautiful children. My sister has a Master’s degree. My brother has a great job. And me?

I have Makayla. She is my legacy. 

KIPP Parent Mikal Ellis

Two weeks after I was conceived, my father passed. So I didn’t grow up with a dad. Then, two weeks after Makayla was born, I was incarcerated and did significant time. Her mother did her best, and I…I wasn’t there.

There was a time when I didn’t think I was ever coming home—a lot of people don’t ever get that opportunity. But I was given a chance. When I got back, when Makayla and I got to spend time together, that was, how do I say this? Let’s just say, I learn from her in ways that she doesn’t even know. Sometimes I’ll think to myself, “We are so lucky. I’m home. We have a roof over our head. We can provide for our daughter.” I truly believe that every day is a blessing.

KIPP Parents Erica Mitchel and Mikal Ellis

I can’t even put into words how happy Makayla makes us. But the last thing I would ever want would be for her to come home from school, need help with homework, and see that I don’t know how to help. That would make me feel helpless. So she inspires us.

She is the reason we have both returned to college. Her mom already graduated. I’m graduating next year. Makayla…she brings out the best in us.

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