Leaving their mark

by John Holt on May 24, 2017

in Our KIPPsters

In the coming days, KIPP Northeast College Preparatory will be participating in a major event.

The founding class will graduate on June 4 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. “It’s going to be really special because it’s going to be the last time that we’ll all be together for a long time,” Northeast senior Summyr-Ann Glover said. 

Northeast Founding School Leader Gillian Quinn said she wouldn’t be surprised if tears are shed on this historic day. “It’s just hard to think of what I want to say to them,” Quinn said. “They’re such good kids, and they’ve worked really hard. I’m just excited for them.”

FROM SINGLE GENDERED TO CO-ED  

The class entered KIPP Northeast in 2013 – the school’s opening year – with a share of adjustments. One of the biggest being: leaving a single-sex environment and moving to one that was co-ed.

“A lot of them matriculated from the all-boys (KIPP Polaris) and all-girls school (KIPP Voyage),” KIPP Northeast athletic director LB McGowen said. “They had to get used to being in a co-ed environment again, which was a challenge for them being ninth graders and young kids still 14-years-old.”

Quinn agreed, adding that she established gender groups early on to help the process. “We had single-sex advisory,” Quinn said. “We would take all the boys in the room and all the girls in another room as part of Summer Bridge (program). Throughout the school year, we would watch movie clips or listen to music that was intentional to address what they were going through. We also held a career day with speakers from a variety of professions, and had advisors talk to them.”

ACCEPTANCE

From Quinn’s point of view, this founding class is unique. And KIPP Northeast’s culture has always been one where everyone can be themselves. “You know the stuff you get made fun of in high school,” Quinn said. “Our founders don’t do that to each other. They’re very accepting of things that others might not be. We have kids from a wide variety of backgrounds and kids don’t judge. That’s something I’m really proud of. It is a true example of the amazing character our students have.”

As a member of the 2017 class, Summyr noted, “We are very, very quirky. We have so many personalities. I know I am not going to be judged. Our personalities are weird, we’re weird, but that’s what makes us perfect. Most of us have been together seven or eight years, and a new person can come to our school and they’ll get the same love that everyone else would.”

ESTABLISHING A LEGACY

During the 2016 winter holiday, the class organized a Ronald McDonald House toy drive after Quinn informed them that her newborn baby had been in-and-out of Texas Children’s Hospital for five straight months. “It was just bad,” Quinn recalled. “When I came back from maternity leave, I talked to the seniors about what was going on and told them some of the things that had happened. They rallied to do the toy drive.”

That type of selfless act is part of what leaves a footprint. The class has established their legacy and now future classes will attempt to follow. “They were the guinea pigs,” McGowen said of the 2017 group. “A lot of times things were not clear to them, but they asked questions. They didn’t have an example or anybody to look up to. They hung in there and still got it done.”

As June 4 nears and one chapter concludes, Quinn expects the 2017 class to stay in contact and continue making memories. “I’m excited for them,” Quinn said. “I think I’ll probably cry at some point at graduation. I’m going to try not to. It feels kind of surreal still.”