Letter to the Editor

KIPP: Why not my kid?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

To the editor:

KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program -- a public charter school here in Blytheville) held their First Annual Gala Tuesday night at the Holiday Inn. Just guessing, it appears about 200 folks showed up. Not bad for an organization that has been in town all of 10 months with a fifth-grade class beginning last July.

Scott Shirey, the executive director of KIPP, kicked off the evening. He explained that one of KIPP's major goals is to set the expectation that underprivileged kids can graduate from college, given half a chance. He went on to enumerate the five pillars of KIPP:

1. Set high expectations and hold people accountable to them.

2. Choice and commitment -- students, parents and faculty actively participate in KIPP because they want to.

3. More time -- any worthwhile endeavor requires time and effort.

4. Power to lead -- decisions at each KIPP school are made at the local level allowing for nimble responses to issues.

5. Focuses on results -- students are expected to achieve an academic level that will enable them to grow and prosper at any college in the nation. Results matter!

What a great foundation. These pillars echo many of the philosophies of the company I work for, Nucor.

After Scott and Blytheville School Director Maisie Wright spoke, the kids got to speak. Starting off were Dewhon Priget and Tiffany Wright, both of the KIPP Blytheville Class of 2018 -- and they proudly let you know what class. Hearing these Blytheville fifth-graders confidently deliver their assessment of what is good and bad in their community was astounding. I had to ask if they wrote their own material. They did.

We were then serenaded by the Class of 2021 from KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy. They did a great job. Were they a little scared? Yup. But as first-graders in a new town, a home run performance! What a perfect example of how KIPP helps kids excel.

After dinner, two more KIPP Blytheville fifth-grade students spoke. Dasherrick Andrews and Aditi Panda presented their thoughts in a manner that served them, their families and the KIPP program well. For brevity's sake, I will not elaborate on Mayor Sanders' speech and the wonderful singing (and presence) of the high school choir from KIPP Delta Collegiate in Helena.

Talking with these KIPPsters is impressive. From first grade to 12th grade, they are a class act. Poised, confident and polite do not even begin to describe how these KIPP students present themselves. What a great thing.

My son is graduating from college in two weeks and is doing well. I know KIPP would have helped him prepare for college and life even more. I just wonder how much more. Parents want the best for their kids. I wish I had known about KIPP 17 years ago. Then I wouldn't have to wonder -- why not my kid?

Sam Commella