How KIPP Families are Impacting our Communities

“I’ll be your mom until your mom comes,” are the words Tameeka Walden, a member of the KIPP Life Academy Parent Partner Association (LAPPA) at KIPP New Jersey, uses to describe her commitment to the children and families at her school.

For Walden, whose daughter attends the school, a whole new level of parenting begins when students set foot on the school grounds; the campus becomes a community—a village—that looks after the children and each other.

“I know that not every parent can be as involved as I am, but it’s important for parents to get involved so that we can all support each other and create change. I made a promise that as long as my child is in this building, all of the children are my children too. Why not have a village looking out for your child?” Thanks to KIPP New Jersey’s Parent Partnership Teams, parents like Walden are discovering that when united, the parent voice can be a powerful tool to get things done.

Every KIPP school in Newark has a Parent Partnership Team that fosters community and works to ensure that students succeed. Parents have rallied to petition the city to provide more crossing guards at intersections to keep all kids safe. They also help fundraise for programs, work collaboratively with school officials to purchase needed school supplies, provide student enrichment opportunities such as special performances and field trips, and offer support to teachers.

Their reach extends beyond the classroom, too. Hundreds turn out for community events like the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Newark and other initiatives.

Parent Power thumb Parents volunteered at an envelope stuffing event as part of their "Get Out the Vote" initiatives this past year.

“We’re about impacting the community, not just the kids in the classroom,” says Walden. “We’re constantly asking the questions: What is the need? Or, how can we do a better job?”

Shennell McCloud, Director of Advocacy for KIPP New Jersey, agrees. “We want parents to be a powerful voice for their children, their schools and their communities,” she says. “We know that when schools engage parents, children adapt well to school, attend school regularly, earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills and improved behavior, and graduate and go on to college.”

But college isn’t the only positive outcome of parent engagement. Last year, parent leaders led Get-Out-The-Vote efforts to register new voters and encourage parents to exercise their right to vote. As a result, the group registered hundreds of parents and raised the number of KIPP voters in Newark from 40% to 61%. With important state and local elections around the corner, KIPP parents are mobilizing and making their voices heard.

“When my six-year-old daughter tells me her choices for college, it inspires me,” says Walden. “I want to go back to school for my Master’s degree so that my daughter can see that the sky’s the limit.”

This story first appeared in the first edition of the KIPP New Jersey Magazine, a magazine for the KIPP New Jersey family.

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