This August, the KIPP Foundation announced a small, but important shift: Our KIPP Through College teams that collectively support tens of thousands of KIPP alumni nationwide who have crossed the stage at middle or high school graduations would now be called KIPP Forward. The shift was intended to better reflect our longstanding commitment to supporting students on all pathways, including those students for whom college is not a goal.
In Newark, KIPP Forward Director Becky Scudieri welcomes the shift towards a more inclusive name. “The name change reflects our desire to provide every student a career path and the fact that that path doesn’t have to be college. We want to support every student,” said Scudieri, who added that the focus on career happens well before a student is a senior in high school or college. “In all grades, we’re really encouraging students to think through what their path to career might look like. We want students to know the steps they’ll have to take, whether they decide to become a contractor or a doctor. Starting with the end in mind is one of the most powerful things we can do,” she added.
One alumnus pursuing a career path over college is KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy graduate Quajen Coates. After graduating from high school in 2018, Coates struggled initially to define his path. “I was working odd jobs, sometimes at warehouses, whatever work I could get,” said Coates. “At one point, I was in between jobs, and Ms. Scudieri was able to contribute towards my rent,” he added.
Joe Mettle, KIPP Forward Career Technical Education Manager, also provided support. “Mr. Mettle was the biggest influence for me. He pushed me every day and always asked how I was doing and kept me motivated,” said Coates.
In April of this year, Coates’ grandfather passed away from cancer. “Watching my grandfather’s experience with cancer led me to go after a career in healthcare. I texted Mr. Mettle with my plan, and he helped connect me to the New Community Career and Technical Institute so I could become a patient care technician,” he said. Coates graduated from NCCTI this spring. In June, he received a job offer from University Hospital Newark to be a patient care technician for patients going through chemotherapy. “I take patients’ vitals, make sure they’re comfortable, and assist nurses. I want to make sure patients receive excellent care, like my grandfather did,” said Coates. His next goal? To enroll in nursing school.
Students also opt to pursue their career passions through entrepreneurship. KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy 2020 graduate Chemiah Parker is an aspiring chef who attended Rutgers University at New Brunswick last year before withdrawing when she realized that learning remotely during the pandemic was not for her. “I told myself I would take some time off school to figure out what I wanted to do,” said Parker. “I realized that cooking and bringing people together was my true passion,” she said.
The result has been the launch of Miah’s Kitchen which has provided everything from pasta to salmon dishes to her friends and family in the Newark community since January. “My goal is to bring people in the community through food, which is something my grandfather always did, too. I want to move to a commercial space and go to culinary school down the road,” said Parker.
The KIPP Newark community has had her back throughout her journey. “So many of my teachers and other alumni from my year have been sharing my social media posts, ordering food, and even helping me cook,” said Parker. “Anything I need, anytime I have a question, they’re there,” she added.