It has been a privilege to work with so many smart, hard-working students over the last 18 years, and as a KIPP Alumni Counselor for the past four. I have been honored to help our students through their transition to college. My job entails many different areas like financial aid, housing, social skills, emotions, career development, and academics. As I reflected on the many years of doing this work, I realized that we were missing a piece.
All throughout our KIPP Kindergarten through 12th grades, our students, families, and staff are asked to sign a commitment to excellence form. A key part of this agreement is the parents, but we haven’t included them as much as we could have on the transitions to college. This has become more evident as we have seen more KIPPsters in college.
I had to find a solution to incorporate parental commitment into the college level, but not in document form. So why not plan a college tour for parents? My solution was to close the communication gap that we have as a system and to pull parents into the process of helping students choose which college is the best fit for their child. It would also help parents feel more comfortable about sending their child to college without having to be a “helicopter parent”.
My natural choice was our partner school, Blinn Junior College, because they have been so good to our students. Blinn did a great job of welcoming our parents with an introduction from Dennis Crowson, Senior Vice President for Student Services. Representatives from the different areas spoke to our parents, and one of our parents, Mrs. Harris, later told me, “I now have the knowledge to ensure that the fall of 2017 goes smoothly for my child. I was able to learn about the process of financial aid, registration, and housing.”
It was important for parents to see all aspects of college as most of our students are the first in their families to apply and attend. The parents had a tour of the campus, agriculture building, and the dorms. Throughout the day, they were able to chat with a few KIPP Alumni who are attending Blinn for the first semester and hear about their experiences. I wanted parents to understand the nuances that go into ensuring that our KIPPsters are completing college. Mrs. Harris summarized this very nicely by saying, “I do not feel like an outsider. This entire experience has eased some of my concerns and anxiety about having my child leave Houston. I am grateful for the KTC team, and especially for Mr. Spann for organizing this.”
We are hoping to plan a trip in the spring, and hope more parents sign up.
Written by Isaiah Spann.