Regional Staff

Jessica Cunningham Akoto

KIPP DC School Leader Jessica Cunningham

Some people in my family had really positive educational experiences. They lived in the right zip codes and got to attend really good schools. And some people in my family didn’t have those advantages.

To see that discrepancy—to see our lives play out so differently based on where our parents lived, to see how our varying levels of education set us on such varying paths—I became acutely aware of the education gap before I ever stepped foot on a college campus.

But I was lucky. Long before there were even charter schools, my parents exercised school choice.

When they felt like something wasn’t working for me, they moved me into an environment they thought was better. I experienced a lot of educational diversity that way. That process—of searching, of exploring, of finding the right educational fit—left an impact that still affects me to this day.

I learned how powerful really good parents were. I saw how important it was for parents to be in a position where they could advocate for their child’s education and use school choice for their benefit.

And because we finally found that perfect fit for me, I understood from an early age how powerful a school could be. It’s why I wanted to pursue a career in education. It’s what motivated me to become a high school school leader in 2005.

And it’s why I have stayed with KIPP for the past sixteen years.

Embedded within Jessica’s work is a drive to question and dismantle systems that marginalize people of color. Hear from Jessica on why we need to recognize the excellence of black women and the role they’ve played – and will continue to play – in this country.

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