“We Want to Be a Part of Their Stories:” KIPP NJ Alumni Inspired by Industry Leaders at Inaugural Alumni Summit

Last Thursday, KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy (NCA) alumna Edvina Jones departed Newark, New Jersey’s Hahne and Co. Building and opened Instagram. “Today, I was offered two jobs and five interviews on the spot. In a few more years, I’ll be a sports marketing specialist. I’ll be the person to promote and build up your athlete, team, agency, and company,” she wrote.

Jones, now a student at Kean University, was just one of more than 100 future young leaders who packed the Hahne Building for a day of networking and career inspiration. The young adults—all graduates of KIPP New Jersey schools—were joined by more than 125 industry leaders in finance, technology, fashion, and entertainment. The professionals offered advice on everything from interview etiquette to financial literacy.

Top-level employees from companies like Prudential Financial, M&T Bank, Amazon, Google, NJM Insurance Group, Rutgers University – Newark, UBS, and Fortell Communications came out in full force, providing on-the-spot interviews, career guidance, and in some cases, job offers.

Charlie Odom, vice president of talent at nonprofit Venture for America, led a session for alumni on effective entrepreneurship. “I’m here because I truly believe in the work KIPP does,” said Odom. “The students in this room have so much potential. Graduates of KIPP are impressive and we want to be a part of their stories.”

KIPP NJ alum Mahogany Laveau, a senior at Rutgers University – New Brunswick and graduate of NCA, attended the event with an eye towards post-graduation opportunities in the legal field. “I want to gain experience with clinical work in anything dealing with civil rights or law. I had the chance to network and make connections with people who could help me in the future,” said Laveau.

For Kiorie Hammond, a graduate of NCA who studies psychology and criminal justice at the University of Hartford, the day embodied KIPP’s commitment to helping students “to and through” college. “When I was at KIPP, they helped me build networking, communications, and writing skills. Our KIPP Through College counselors still help us with stipends and connect us to internships and job opportunities. Even people who go to private schools don’t always have that kind of support.”

Keynote speakers Dr. Michael Lomax and Marcus Samuelsson.

The day of networking and industry panels concluded with inspiring words from renowned chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson and Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF (the United Negro College Fund). Dr. Lomax led a Q&A session with Samuelsson that covered his personal and professional journey from Ethiopia to the U.S, through Sweden.

Samuelsson advised students to travel, put themselves out of their comfort zones, and recognize that success doesn’t happen overnight. “The goal was not to be fast. It was about asking where am I five, 10, 15 years from now? Success is not a bus stop. I’ve never felt like I arrived.” said Samuelsson. “I thank organizations like KIPP for having the foresight to think long term and not just for the moment.”