“In 2021, when high school is done, success has just begun,” were the spirited chants from our KIPP Raíces founding class of kindergarteners, during their elementary graduation, 13 years ago.
Our families and KIPPsters took a leap of faith, back in 2008, and walked in through the doors not only as the founding class of KIPP Raíces Academy (KRA), but as the founding class of the first charter public elementary school within KIPP SoCal. “[Our founding families] believed in the promise, and we were working hard to fulfill that promise,” said Yesenia Castro, former 1st grade teacher and current School Leader at KRA.
Now our founding class has officially graduated high school and are onto their next chapter — to lead choice-filled lives! “Our students are not only excellent academic achievers, they are artists, scientists, authors, athletes, and agents of change.”1
In fact, 71% of the founding class are matriculating to college this fall, going to phenomenal institutions across the nation, from each University of California campus to Duke University, and more. “KIPP SoCal has provided me with so many amazing opportunities, [including] the big world of college admissions. They not only cared about me and my goals of getting to and through college, but also the comfort of my family who had no previous experience with applying to college, scholarships, or financial aid,” shared Emily Gabion, KRA founding student and alumna, who will be attending UC Berkeley in a few weeks!
Elementary School Connections
During this summer, as our founding class prepares their next steps, they are also reminiscing of their grade school days: “I enjoyed every moment and time at KIPP Raíces,” said alumna, Daniela Ibarra. Meanwhile, alumna Alejandra Aguila recalled the school events, “my favorite memory at KIPP Raíces were the carnivals that were put together during the summer, I had so much fun with classmates and teachers, I always looked forward to them.” To add, alumna Jacinda Favela, enrolled at UC Riverside this September, shared, “I remember finding my passion for science and mathematics at KRA. I feel so grateful, more that I can put into words. I never knew that KIPP would change my life so greatly, I still keep in contact with individuals that went to kindergarten with me.”
Founding KIPPsters' Reunion
Our founding class recently reunited virtually along with many KRA founding teachers and we are not only seeing our students plan for the career of their choice, but seeing how their friendships have blossomed throughout the years. “It was such a beautiful experience ... I loved hearing what they’ve been up to and their goals for next year. I think I mostly enjoyed seeing their interactions with each other. This reunion was cathartic for me, because I was able to see firsthand the fruits of our labor,” noted Ms. Castro.
Learnings from the Founding Class
“I am thankful for my teachers that I have met along the way and how each one has contributed to help me get to where I am today,” said alumna Aguila, who will be attending Smith College to pursue a degree in psychology this fall. “As the years went on, being a part of the founding class at KIPP Raíces taught me to always be optimistic about my future, to become a leader and demonstrate what I want other young students to achieve as well.”
Along similar lines, alumna Ibarra added, “I feel that it taught me the basic values of life. It also taught me to never be afraid to speak up for myself and to never give up no matter how challenging things might be.” For alumna Favela, who is pursuing a degree in nursing at San Francisco State University, said, “it taught me to be a leader and to take risks when I want to accomplish something.” Alumna Gabion agrees with her and added, “being a part of the founding class has taught me to be a risk taker and prepared me to take even scarier leaps, such as being a first-generation college student.”
Some of our KRA founding students share their token of advice to current young KIPPsters:
“The founders have a very special place in my heart,” said Ms. Castro. While having graduated high school marks a great milestone, it definitely doesn’t signal an end of the founding class’ relationship with KIPP SoCal. Through academic and extracurricular programs like our KIPP Through College academic team of counselors and advisors, we help our students expand their knowledge of career options — and the steps needed to pursue the career of their choice. As mentioned during KRA’s first graduation speech, “as you [KIPPsters] begin the stage of your academic careers, I want you to know that every person at KIPP Raíces Academy wants the best for you — from the teachers to the principal to the front office to the custodians, every person here wants you to be happy and successful, whatever successful means to you.” Alumna Ibarra concluded, “being part of the KIPP community feels like I have a second family, because I feel like they always have my back and are supportive no matter what.”
1 KIPP Raíces Academy's Sentiment. Retrieved from www.kippsocal.org/raices.