KIPP Adelante Empowers Students to Succeed in Beyond Its Doors, Through High School, College and Beyond

January 4, 2016

  • Print
Knowledge is power. These three simple words are the central belief that drives every aspect of the way KIPP schools educates and empowers its students.

KIPP, which stands for Knowledge is Power Program, began in 1994 when two teachers, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, launched a fifth-grade public school program in inner-city Houston, Texas, after completing their commitment to Teach For America. Levin eventually returned home to New York to establish KIPP Academy in the South Bronx. These two original KIPP Academies became the foundation for a growing network of schools that are transforming the lives of students in underserved communities, and redefining the notion of what is possible in public education.

Today, there are 183 KIPP schools serving more than 70,000 students in 20 states and Washington, D.C. There are 6,000 KIPP alumni in college. KIPP Adelante, located in downtown San Diego, is part of nationwide charter program. The school was founded in 2003 and serves approximately 350 students in grades fifth through eighth from the surrounding neighborhoods of Barrio Logan and Logan Heights. These students (often from low-income communities) are receiving an education that is innovative, creative, and focused on knowledge building and college readiness.

Monique McKeown, principal of KIPP Adelante, calls her school San Diego's best kept secret. "KIPP Adelante is cultivating a professional community that prioritizes teacher collaboration and a developmentally appropriate environment that is accessible and challenging to all learners," she said. "We are preparing our students to serve as leaders in the community once they graduate from college. We do this by engaging them in authentic work that is rigorous and relevant to the 21st century."

McKeown has several years experience with the KIPP Network. Before coming to San Diego, she was a teacher at a KIPP school in Chicago. She still keeps in contact with her former seventh grade students who are now attending college.

According to McKeown, one of the reasons KIPP is so unique is the schools' focus on academics and character building. "We're crazy about our kids and want them to have the best opportunities, and we'll do whatever it takes to make that happen," she said.

The KIPP Through College Program

One of the hallmarks of KIPP Adelante is the KIPP Through College (KTC) program. KTC is part of the broader KIPP approach that helps eliminate the opportunity gap between students from high- and low-income communities.

The KTC team helps KIPP Adelante keep its promise to prepare its students for college and the world beyond. "What makes us unique is that we're a team and family," said McKeown. "We help students and families figure out the best high school to attend and where they can be the most successful." This is done through school tours and application assistance.

The program has been quite successful. Many of KIPP students have gone on to attend prestigious San Diego private schools, often at no cost to the student. An example of one of those students is David Diaz who attended KIPP from fifth through eighth grade. He was a quiet student who learned to play the violin and fell in love with the instrument, becoming an outlet for self-expression. Diaz graduated from KIPP and went on to attend the private school of La Jolla Country Day and is now a member of the San Diego Youth Symphony.

The support doesn't stop when the students enter high school. The KTC team, as well as KIPP teachers and counselors, continues to work with the kids in high school, helping them apply for college and financial aid, and host a college application bootcamp for high school seniors. And often times, KIPP alumni return to their alma mater to encourage current student and show what is possible.

"I've never been at a school where the kids graduate and come back and give back to community and school," said Emelyn Cortes, a seventh grade English-Language Arts teacher at KIPP Adelante. "There are always alumni in the school that are helping out teachers and students. It's great to see your influence on students like that."

Before joining KIPP eight years ago, Cortes taught elementary school at a large Los Angeles public school. She moved to San Diego and wanted to be part of a school community that has a bigger mission with respect to meeting the needs of students.

"I liked the mission of working with inner city kids from low income and get them in great high schools and college," said Cortes. "I believe that where you're from doesn't define your life outcome. With KIPP, I noticed immediately the emphasis on team and family. Students got to know their instructors, not just as teachers but as people who will support them academically and emotionally."

With its mission of sending students to high school and college, and empowering them with knowledge, San Diego's "best kept secret" is starting to lose its stealth status. Most of KIPP Adelante's students have been attending the school from the fifth grade. Now their siblings and cousins are attending. The school is currently at its full capacity with many more families and kids wanting to attend.

"At the end of the day, these students are more than kids that just need to finish homework," said McKeown. "They have a lot in their lives and need help and emotional support. And I see so many students come back to KIPP on a daily and weekly basis. I'm proud to be a part of a place where that happens."