The Meaning of Team & Family

by Ariel Reynolds on Sep 12, 2015

in Team & Family

I’ve officially been working at KIPP now for a little over a month. I’ve had outsiders continually ask me what it’s like to work at KIPP and probably even more Big KIPPsters ask me how it’s been as a new employee. I knew I would be writing this blog post for quite some time now, so I have been compiling a list of things I have noticed during my first month.

The list consists of moments when I knew I was working for the best school system possible, with the best team and family possible, moments I fell in love with my job. 

I work for KIPP as a Communications Specialist on the Marketing Team. I was not an education major and moved from Alabama, where there aren’t any KIPP schools. I knew I wanted to work for a nonprofit, but I honestly did not know very much about KIPP when I first accepted the job. My friends and family from home would ask me what I would be doing after graduation and the conversation would always go something like this:

Me: I will be working for KIPP Houston Public Schools as a Communications Specialist so basically a lot of Public Relations for their 24 campuses in Houston. 

Them: So what exactly is KIPP?

Me: It’s a public, nonprofit, charter school that provides a really high quality education for underserved children. They put an emphasis on getting students to and through college.

Them: Oh cool, so they find students who show potential and help provide the resources they may not have otherwise?

Me: Exactly.

Except I was COMPLETELY WRONG.

It only took me a couple of hours being at KIPP to know I completely misunderstood the mission. KIPP doesn’t seek students with potential because ALL students WILL learn. Every single student has the potential to succeed in school and life.

KIPP changed the way I viewed education, privilege and empowerment. From that moment, I fell in love with KIPP and the little moments I get to witness everyday on campuses.

So here’s my list of things I have noticed at KIPP schools across Houston during my first month:

1. The way school leaders know all of their students.

Working on the Marketing Team, we have to check for media releases on students before using any pictures. So far in the month that I have been here, I have been able to email three school leaders with a picture of students and a list of names to cross reference. The school leaders know exactly who the students are every single time. Some of you may not be impressed, but since I have trouble remembering someone’s name right after I meet them, I love seeing the way school leaders value and knoow each of their students.

2. The high school student that hugged their office manager in the hallway.

After I completed an interview at KIPP Houston High School, I went to let the office manager know that I was leaving campus. During this time a high school student stopped in the hallway to give the office manager a hug and see how her day was going. I loved seeing that it’s not just teachers who build relationships and make a difference.   

3. The incredible connection between teachers and students in the classrooms.

I don’t even know how to explain this one. My middle school memories might be a little skewed, but I know my classrooms didn’t have this much connection. The students value their education and genuinely want to learn. During my visit to a classroom, the teacher asked the students to read their answers from an assignment. Every single student raised their hands, eagerly wanting to share what they had learned from their reading. The students maintained full eye contact and then completed cheers after each of their classmates finished sharing.   

4. The open desk of Andrew Rubin, School Leader of KIPP Academy Middle School.

During a tour of KIPP Academy Middle School’s campus, I was in a hallway and looking straight at a desk. Not in an office or behind a cubicle but sitting completely out in the open. Andrew Rubin truly lives the open door policy, since he chooses to not even have a door. He does this to build relationships and remain transparent with his students. Pretty cool, huh?

5. The professionalism of the fifth grader that welcomed me into their classroom.

Another one of my tasks is to take pictures in different classrooms for various reasons. The first classroom I walked into at CONNECT Middle, I was greeted by a young, fifth grader that introduced himself, welcomed me to the class, and showed me where I could sit if I wanted to stay and join the class for a little bit. Talk about melting my heart.

6. The willingness of Jackii, a KIPP Houston High School student, to help me write materials I needed.

Like I mentioned earlier, I conduct different interviews when material is needed for various marketing pieces. One day I needed to interview a student named Jackii. When I arrived at KHHS, I met her and began the interview by thanking her for her time but also saying she probably enjoyed getting pulled out of class. Jackii replied that she was actually missing her lunch period to come help me with this assignment. It isn’t every day you meet a high school student choosing to be so selfless.

Or maybe at KIPP it is. I am continually given the opportunity to meet incredible people and build meaningful relationships through my work at KIPP, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of the KIPP Team & Family.