Interviewer: Do you still relate to any “KIPPisms” in your everyday life?
Melissa Diaz: Oh yeah, grit and persistence are my whole life.
This one statement framed the rest of my conversation with Melissa.
Melissa’s mother came to the United States from Peru in the early 80’s and worked as a janitor to provide for her family. After KIPP Academy Middle School, Melissa attended an elite boarding school in Connecticut, Rosemary Hall and went on to attend the University of Columbia as a first generation college student.
Melissa has worked on Obama’s campaign, taught at KIPP Infinity in Harlem, worked for the New York fire department, and is currently the Director of Research and Analysis for the mayor of New York City. She is the youngest department head at City Hall.
“I remember calling my mom after I accepted this job and said, ‘Momma, we made it,’” shared Melissa. After years of hard work, Melissa is living her dream job and making history at City Hall.
Throughout all of her life and transitions, KIPP has been a major player in Melissa’s life.
“It was important to me to teach at a KIPP school,” said Melissa. “It was the greatest experience. I have never worked so hard, and the students absolutely deserve it. I have so much respect for people who teach for years.”
Even when Melissa transitioned back to working in politics, she kept her KIPP lessons. Working in one of the most demanding, 24 hour jobs, Melissa shared one of the greatest lessons she learned with KIPP.
“You make promises and you have to deliver. We have a deadline and are responsible for the things we say we are going to do in the same way you make a promise to KIPP students. Promises are sacred, and I will never forget that.”