The goal of The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter system is to prepare students from pre-k to grade 12 who live in historically under-served communities throughout New York City for their futures. In particular, attending colleges and universities despite the obstacles that may interfere with this goal.
KIPP NYC College Prep in the Bronx is one of these charter schools with a focus on providing career and college services for their majority Black and Brown student body.
Charter schools across the country and especially in New York pride themselves on the ability to utilize holistic teaching methods while also providing a “private school” education at a public school.
Focusing on methodologies like emotional connection between adult mentors and students, standardized testing preparation and a hands-on approach with family members and students when it comes to the college application process, KIPP NYC College Prep has seen extraordinary results.
Across KIPP institutions, the average graduation rate is about 97%, 89% of those students end up attending college or entering the workforce and 46% of KIPP students graduate from college.
With the struggles that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, KIPP institutions had to drastically change their efforts to maintain their status quo, but with the help of tools like Zoom and the technical literacy their students had gained through attending the school, students were still able to succeed.
One student in particular is Stephanie Clase, a high school senior at KIPP NYC College Prep who recently got an early acceptance into the New York University (NYU) Steinhardt program to study educational theater.
“It was a lot of effort, a team effort,” said Clase in an interview with amNew York Feb. 17. “Writing the essay portion for both essays, [there was a lot of work] on my part because I had to be as transparent as possible to get across to the admissions officers. I had written two versions of the personal statement and it was a lot of self-reflection and the team around me helped me find the perfect way to express myself.”
This team of college and career advisors that helped Clase successfully apply and get admitted to NYU was comprised of counselor Anthony Miranda and Rebekah Bambling, Director of College and Career Counseling.
During the process of preparing and then eventually applying for colleges, Clase and her mother grew incredibly close to advisor and counselor Miranda who helped the family figure out what the best options for Stephanie to pursue and how to do everything possible to accomplish her goals – including summer programs for college application preparedness.
“We do meetings with the families of high school juniors, which obviously had to be on Zoom, and when we met I know Stephanie and her mom were just following up a lot with me, which I was encouraged about,” said Miranda to amNew York. “And then that’s when I invited them in July to learn more about the early application processes we were doing. And so from there we worked on the entire application process; essays, supplements, financial aid. And it was like a lot of things here: a team effort, so there were some times where you read the same essay 50 times and realize ‘I need another pair of eyes’, so Rebekah helped me out on that.”
Bambling, the Director of College and Career Counseling also noted that the challenges that although many of the KIPP students faced obstacles during the pandemic – struggling to connect with fellow students when classes were fully virtual and taking care of their mental and physical health – the student body has always been incredibly tight knit. Making it that much more painful when the most recent senior classes have graduated, virtually and without the potential closure on such an important time period of their lives.
“Part of what this senior class is experiencing is that they just got back [to in-person learning], and as soon as they got back they needed to prepare to leave,” said Bambling. “Obviously no one was expecting to be virtual for a year and a half, and I think that KIPP is such a supportive environment and that was hard during the pandemic. And so for this senior class, they missed half their sophomore year, their entire junior year of being in-person. So they went from fully online to adjusting to seeing each other again and having that community, and at the same time putting so much work into preparing to leave.”
Not only do the bonds students form with faculty members and counselors help them figure out the trajectories of their futures after high school, but students also get the opportunity to get emotionally very close with their mentors – many of whom have known the students for years.
When asked about what she would miss most about the KIPP program once she left for college, Clase got visibly emotional, overcome by the nostalgia she had for the school system that had educated her and lifted her up since she was only four years old.
“I am definitely definitely going to miss this whole environment,” said Clase. “The faculty, my friends. Just thinking about it is making me so emotional. This school is everything to me, I’ve been here since I was like four, in this system. It feels like I’m really actually leaving the nest.”