Last year, 95 percent of all seniors from KIPP New Jersey’s high school, Newark Collegiate Academy, entered college. Of students who finished 8th grade in one of KIPP New Jersey’s schools, 77% went on to college no matter what high school they attended. KIPP New Jersey’s students have gained acceptance to colleges such as Swarthmore, Smith, UVA, Duke, Brandeis, Haverford, Barnard, George Washington University, Boston College, Howard, NC State, and Rutgers.
To gain insight into the essence of this success, we spoke with two KIPP New Jersey students – Naheem Height, who attended KIPP’s Rise Academy starting in 5th grade and Samiyah Lucas, who started attending KIPP’s TEAM Academy in 6th grade.Both are now seniors graduating from KIPP’s Newark Collegiate Academy and planning to attend college next year.
When you first started attending a KIPP school in Newark, what kind of expectations did your teachers set for you and your fellow students?
Naheem – Once I started at Rise Academy, I immediately felt challenged. The homework at the school that I had previously attended was not consistent. At KIPP, I received homework for every core subject every day and the teachers set expectations that helped me create a personal work ethic. When I first started at KIPP, in 5th grade, I remember teachers set a mission in our classroom for all of us called, “Climbing the Mountain to College.” Teachers had us dreaming of attending colleges like Princeton and Georgetown. They even set up field trips to visit college campuses to show us the potential all of us had.
Samiyah – When I started in 6th grade, I remember how teachers broke up the class up into different academic teams and the teams were named after colleges – there would be teams like Princeton, Georgetown, and University of Maryland. My teacher would always instill the idea of attending college and in our classrooms he would tell us what would be expected of us in college.
Normally at that age, college is not really on the radar for most kids. Was that scary?
Samiyah – No one from my family has ever attended college. When I came to KIPP, teachers shed light on what college has to offer. We have guest speakers come in to tell us what we need to do get into college. At first it was a bit nerve racking, but eventually it became second nature and I learned what should be expected of me. Soon the expectation of going to college became the norm and I felt real hope for my future.
Naheem – Along the way, we have always had a great support system. I have genuine relationships with my teachers – I still talk to many of my old teachers. One teacher helped me over the summer with my personal statement for my college application. I feel the way that teachers guided us and helped us, we became prepared to go down this path successfully.
Can you tell me about some of those specific actions of a KIPP teacher that were pivotal for you in attending colleges?
Samiyah – Teachers at KIPP always go beyond their actual jobs to help students. I call my college counselor all the time, after hours. Sometimes it’s not even about college issues, it can just be about anything. I know the teachers and counselors at KIPP will always be there for us. When I am in college, I know I can call any of my KIPP teachers or counselors for help. Students definitely build those bonds with their teachers and create relationships that last a long time.
Now, going onto college next fall, how have you grown over your time at a KIPP?
Samiyah – I was shy, but now I am involved in so much. I am ambitious. I think if there is something I want, I will now go after it. I am involved in cheerleading, National Honor Society, and Student Government, a lot of things I never thought I would be interested in when I was younger. I am also very optimistic, very excited. I am excited to start a new chapter in my life and become my own person. I plan to study communications in college and would like to work in television or radio. I do not think I would have ever thought of going away to college, had it not been for my teachers at KIPP.
Naheem – I learned I am a risk taker. I am not afraid to test boundaries. Personally, I have become very resilient and persistent in everything that I do. I like to finish what I start. For example, I am on the cross-country team, an opportunity I may have not had if I had not attended Newark Collegiate Academy. Cross-country was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I never gave up. I went to every practice and worked hard. My coach was always there for me. He knew how hard cross-country was for me, but he always supported what I was doing. I could text him anytime for help and advice. He would come meet me anytime. I learned when you struggle it is my choice to keep going. Some day I would like to be Veterinarian and I will always stay connected to Newark, because that is where I was born and raised.
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