It was the first day of school. I walked into a bright cheerful building that was filled with excited voices through the hallways, children lined up ready to go to their freshly painted classrooms, and other students already immersed in their first day. I observed a large group of fifth graders engaged in learning the culture of the school. The principal of the school took the lead in talking to the group about expected behaviors that would set the stage for a great learning environment: work hard, be kind, and think. I could see in their eyes they were new to this environment, new to this building, and new to this school pride.
I watched a class of sixth graders known as the PRIDE class of 2020 exuberantly participate in a group activity. They were discussing what they wanted their class to be known for, and every single student in the classroom had their hands up, some even had both hands up: "We want to be known as the class that does more than good," said one student.
The teachers made it clear that the school is an environment that has high academic expectations for their students and a place where children build character comprised of (in the students own words:) hardworking, helpful, role models and leaders with grit who will persevere through challenges.
You could feel the same sense of pride and contentment coming from the faculty. This day would go well despite any challenges they faced leading up to it given that this is a brand new school. They're enthusiasm was equal to those of their students. There was an undeniable energy in that building. For a moment, I forgot what surrounded the school building.
I had the privilege of being at KIPP Academy Boston, a middle school where 95 percent of kids are on free and reduced lunch and 100 percent of kids identify as Latino and African American. The school is in a worn out neighborhood in the city of Boston that looks like it's crying out for an infusion of energetic and educated children from the community who want to change it for the better. Inside the KIPP building, it's happening.
I am a parent who came from a household always struggling to make ends meet, but education was a value ingrained in me from an early age. I also know when I see the bright light of learning shining on the faces of children. I know when kids are engaged and interested in what they are learning. They lean forward; they listen and are eager to participate. This is the kind of school I would want my children to be in and I would venture to guess most of us would want for our children.
KIPP Massachusetts has a big goal: By 2020, 1,000-plus of KIPP kids will be on their way through college. They are creating pathways and access for low-income kids to climb out of poverty in communities throughout Massachusetts and nationally. Through strong academics, strong character and the love and support of their families and teachers they will get there.
My hope is that kids in Roxbury, Lynn, Lawrence and other low-income communities in the Boston area and in so many other communities are afforded educational experiences like this. I hope our Latino and African American communities will recognize that we can be the fiercest advocates for the education our children receive and get to know what could be possible in our own backyard. I look forward to seeing the KIPP PRIDE class of 2020 "do more than good." Their dreams are attainable and I hope that will be the case for so many more.