Susan Dunn

KIPP Funder Susan Dunn

Over a decade ago, my husband Tom and I started to have some philanthropic capacity that we hadn’t anticipated. We both agreed that education was critical — it had been valued in our homes when we were growing up, and we had stressed it when raising our own two children. Moreover, I had been around education my whole life: I taught elementary school for five years and volunteered for a decade. So our decision was relatively easy: We knew what we wanted to support, and we knew we wanted to support it in Newark.

Our daughter was the first person to tell us about KIPP. She was a student at the time and, through a program offered by her school, she volunteered at KIPP New Jersey’s TEAM Academy. She would come home and excitedly tell us about her experience and about the school, that there was something special happening there. Tom and I decided to visit. Right away, we noticed that although there was a dress code, students were not asked to conform. In fact, the opposite was true: students were pushed to find and express themselves, and teachers recognized and celebrated their students as individuals and as children. Tom and I also loved the idea of KIPP’s end-of-year trips. We had both grown up with families that traveled, and thought it was extraordinary that KIPP provided an opportunity for its students to earn a trip to different places around the country. When we saw these things — the goal of getting kids through college, the experiences that KIPP offered in and outside of the classroom, the recognition of individuality — we knew that KIPP’s values aligned with our own.

We’ve been active in KIPP ever since. My husband is on the KIPP New Jersey Board. My daughter no longer volunteers at KIPP TEAM Academy, she works there — this will be her sixth year teaching and her third year at TEAM. And I’ve tutored at KIPP schools twice a week for the past decade. I’ve watched students grow up. I’ve seen them go on to graduate school and land jobs at big accounting firms, I’ve seen them come back and teach. I’ve seen students have opportunities- jobs, travel, the ability to make choices – that maybe they would not have had if they had not gone through KIPP. I strongly believe, even more than I did ten years ago, that KIPP is changing the life trajectories of its students.

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