KIPP Charlotte has been one of my favorite schools in town for about a year and a half now. My good friend Donnie invited me to come see what they were doing at KIPP at a breakfast last spring. I witnessed a really special moment that day, and it is something I will never forget. To this day I get a little choked up when I think about it.
As stated on their website, “KIPP Charlotte is a free, open-enrollment, college preparatory public school serving 360 students in grades five through eight. 94 percent of KIPP Charlotte students are African American, 5 percent Latino/Hispanic, and over 70 percent qualify for the free and reduced meal program.” Their mission is to prepare all of our students to excel in the nation’s finest high schools and colleges by cultivating the habits of mind, character skills, and knowledge necessary for their success.
So what was the special moment I witnessed that morning? I was observing an English classroom, and my tour guide was a wonderful little 7th grader. The teacher asked a question and called on a specific student who paused, was a little stuck and struggled to find the answer. At many schools or even in our workplaces, this is when most people would start laughing, make a snide comment or take advantage of another kid’s struggles. However, this doesn’t happen at KIPP and instead, something amazing happened. Every other kid in the classroom extended their arm straight out and started waiving their hands at the student. My little tour guide pulled on my shirt and said, “that is the other students sending love…to encourage him to find the answer.” Wow. When I heard that I was pretty sure someone was cutting onions or there was a lot of dust in the room. It was a special moment. Here was a young kid struggling to find an answer, and his classmates wanted so badly to send love and support him. And you know what, he ended up finding the correct answer.
The atmosphere in a KIPP classroom is incredible. You can tell the teachers and administration do an extraordinary job at getting these kids excited for learning. And deep down, don’t we all love learning something new? If you are looking for a little inspiration, contact the school about taking a tour.
Now I go back to KIPP for their Mock Interview Days. These kids are so focused and helping them practice interviews for high school and jobs always brings a smile to my face.
The school has the interviewers ask some great questions like, “if you knew someone was doing something wrong, how would you handle it?” The kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up which can be anything from an astronomer, a lawyer, a scientist or a doctor. One young girl specifically wanted “to go to Davidson and study medicine to be a pediatrician because she loves helping kids.” Again this was a 7th grader. They are more focused in 7th and 8th grade then I was in college. And to see the sense of wonder, love of learning and excitement coming from them energizes me. Kids sure can do that to us can’t they?
But in my eyes, something bigger is going on with those kids. They are learning at a young age that they can do anything when they focus on their goals, live a life of purpose, love other people and understand they can be an example for others. What a model for life they are learning at such a young age.
So, thank you KIPP and thank you especially to the students, because we can can all learn a lot just by watching you. I really hope you achieve all your amazing hopes and dreams. You sure inspire me to go after mine! I feel very aligned with what I saw on your walls that morning: Service. Excellence. Integrity. Passion. Courage. Leadership. Or as I call it…the Elements2Lead.