Monica Samuels

Monica Samuels, Principal, KIPP NYC College Prep High School

Monica Samuels, Principal, KIPP NYC College Prep High School

When people ask what brought me to the education field, I tell them it started with stories. Canonical and suspense novels to be exact. As a kid, I remember reading my favorite books into the wee hours of the morning. I found comfort and inspiration page by page. I knew one day I wanted to share the transformative power of literature with students, showing them how reading could unlock emotions, deepen relationships, provide insights into their identities, offer coping mechanisms, and bring joy. This passion led me to KIPP.

My first job at KIPP was teaching 10th-grade English at KIPP NYC College Prep. At the time, I was a new mother of twins and a veteran educator embarking on a fresh chapter. It was energizing to experience the school’s commitment to growth, encapsulated in the motto Ancora Imparo – “I am still learning.” And boy did I learn and grow. Over the years, I advanced from a resident advisor for teachers in residence to assistant English department chair, then to English department chair, director of humanities, and now principal of the largest high school in the KIPP network.

With the joys of teaching and leading come challenges. A key one is the low college graduation rates among black and brown students. I experienced a lack of college counseling support firsthand, so I’m acutely aware of how this gap can limit young people’s growth and prosperity. I’m proud that KIPP NYC College Prep’s intentional programming and dedicated college counseling have dramatically improved student outcomes. In fact, our school is ranked among the best high schools in New York. I attribute this recognition to one thing: community. Gathering feedback from students, staff, and families helps us understand the structures that enable students to thrive while removing unnecessary barriers that often exist in underserved communities. When we work together and trust one another, great outcomes can be achieved.

Beyond community, a data-driven organization leads to positive outcomes for students. I learned this alongside leaders from across the country in KIPP’s leadership development training. It’s important to pull the curtains back to gain a deep understanding of how we’re serving kids. Through leadership development, I’ve learned that once we have clarity on the systems that are not working, it is crucial to dig into the root cause, analyze the impact on students, and make a plan to move forward.

And, outside of the classroom and curricula, what excites me most about my work at KIPP is the true-to-life experiences students have access to. Students can leave campus to network with executives of different industries, lead presentations, flex their public speaking skills, and interact with students and adults from diverse communities. They’ve participated in study abroad programs that have taken them all over! Students have traveled the world, building homes, farming, and attending classes, forming meaningful relationships with people from diverse communities. I’m excited about increasing opportunities for students to learn beyond school walls.

When I think about the future of KIPP NYC College Prep, my vision aligns with KIPP’s: creating a world where every child can shape their future. I aim to ensure students take ownership of their learning, advocate for themselves and others, understand the impact of effort, and feel empowered to take risks. This journey of learning and growth will propel them to future success, fulfilling KIPP’s mission.

Leadership development at KIPP