Our teachers and staff work to draw out our students' innate curiosity every day in our classrooms, whether they’re examining a nonfiction book or creating a volcano for a science fair.  

The goal? To ensure the curiosity our students bring to the classroom is cultivated, not just in their time with KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, but for life. 

Luckily for our students, they have some great role models in our KIPP community. Whether they’ve completed graduate degrees or received a promotion, our teachers, families and alumni are making big moves to improve their careers and model lifelong learning for their students and children. 

Sashai Roberts
Teacher, KIPP Sumner Elementary
(Formerly, teacher KIPP THRIVE Academy in Newark)
KIPP TEAM Academy alumna

As a KIPP alum who’s been teaching with KIPP New Jersey for three years, I try to help my students share their stories and develop a lens of being constant learners. So much of that emerges from the relationships we build with them and their families. I’m still in contact with my mentors from KIPP NJ and I want my students to have that same support.

Earlier this year, I graduated from the Policy Fellows program run by JerseyCAN, which is an education advocacy organization. This fellowship allowed me to explore my passions for education policy and better understand how politics influences educational practice in New Jersey. We met twice a month to hear from guest speakers, school leaders and hear panel discussions on different topics. 

One thing I took away from the program was the importance of sharing your voice on things that matter to you. I created an action plan to write a letter to Assembly ED asking for a hearing and sent my letter to an online media source to share my story about replacing the Praxis with a mentorship program for teachers. I am currently working on other ways my story and advocacy work can be heard.

Dionna Hines
Parent, KIPP Lanning Square Primary and KIPP High School

A little over a year ago, I opened up my own massage studio. It’s a shift to be your own boss, but it’s rewarding, too. Everything from marketing to customer service falls on me, and I’m still learning! I started pursuing massage therapy in 2007 when I saw a list of certification programs offered by the Chubb Institute. Today, my days are long, but I find a lot of satisfaction in supporting new clients and maintaining relationships with longtime clients. 

I think being a lifelong learner has helped me as a parent and a massage therapist. The more you learn, the more you grow, and when you stop, you get stagnant. I want to model that for my children. My boys have always wanted to play football. Today, my daughter wants to be a veterinarian, but once she wanted to be a mermaid! I tell them they can be whoever they want to be, I just want them to put their all into what they choose.

Malikah Brown 
Parent, KIPP Lanning Square Primary and KIPP High School

It has always been my goal to become a nurse. I was a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for thirteen years and always heard about how difficult it was to go to nursing school, especially when you have younger children. I have two daughters who are eight and fourteen years old and one five-year old son, so I really had to think carefully about how I would build a support network that would help me focus when I chose to take that leap. For a while, that dream was on the back burner due to my kids being a priority and having to work overtime to provide for my kids and give them a better life. 

Then two years ago, my dad had a stroke and ended up moving in with us. I learned a lot as we helped nurse him back to health. Once he was a little better, he decided to stay with our family. It was such a blessing, because he and my children became close and he was able to regain his strength and do things like take them to the park, school, play dates and cook dinner. He encouraged me to go back to school and I did. It was so hard. I had to miss things like school events for my kids, vacations and other family outings. But this past May, I graduated with my nursing degree as a Licensed Practical Nurse! Unfortunately, my dad passed away shortly after I graduated. I’m so glad he was able to see me graduate and pursue that dream. 

I teach my children to work hard for everything. I’m big on staying involved in their education and I want to show them that there’s more to life than what they see on the streets of Camden. They come with me to ‘Take Your Child to Work Day,’ and have chores and responsibilities to make money so they will understand that they have to work hard for what they want in life and I instill strong morals and values in them. My older daughter attends KIPP High School and works at Corinne’s Place, a longstanding soul food spot in Camden. The two youngest play sports and are a very big help around the house. It doesn’t stop there: My plans are to go back and obtain my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (RN) to help me create generational wealth for my family. I’m truly blessed.

Nefertari Austin
Math Teacher, KIPP Hatch Middle School

This past spring, I graduated from Rosemont College with a master’s degree in educational leadership with a K-12 Principal certificate. Eventually, my goal is to become a school principal, but before that I’d like to become a math academic coach. Earning my master’s degree was an important step towards these goals. It helped me understand what my non-negotiables would look like if I led a school and also develop strategies to support student classroom engagement. I learned how to articulate a vision of leadership and how to earn buy-in from school staff.

My degree supported a lot of the development that I’ve experienced so far at KIPP New Jersey. My math teaching coach is Marc Tan, the AP of STEM at KIPP Hatch Middle. He’s done a phenomenal job of modeling student engagement and data-driven decision-making. I try to figure out what it takes to engage all the learners in my classrooms, through providing examples that resonate, like studying ratios by having them calculate whether it makes sense for them to buy their favorite brand of chips in bulk or by the bag. I want my students to see how math applies to their everyday lives and to always keep learning! 

Diego Flores
Alumnus, KIPP Lanning Square Middle & Camden County Technical School - Gloucester

When I was at KIPP Lanning Square Middle, teachers like Mr. Pawling made learning interesting and fun for me; plus I gained a lot of friends I still keep in touch with today. When I first started high school, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in the future, but during my junior year I knew I would need to start planning and decide if I wanted to continue my education. 

I connected with my KIPP Forward counselor, Mr. Reyes my senior year. He supported me as I made choices about my future and was really helpful during the decision-making process. There was a lot to learn and I’ll be the first in my generation to attend college. Ultimately, I decided to attend Rutgers University-Camden to study art. I’m really passionate about animation production and they have a great program that will allow me to improve my skills as an artist. 

I like to sketch my own characters in my free time. My favorite animated show is “Cowboy Bepop,” because I think the art is so good and I admire how they develop the characters. I always think of the hard work the artists put in behind the scenes to make it that way and that inspires me to keep drawing and learning new things.  

Diego Flores celebrates his graduation from Camden County Technical School - Gloucester with KIPP Forward staff Kenny Reyes and Kate Esposito. 

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