Knowledge is Power: 2023 KIPPStar Finalists

Knowledge is Power: 2023 KIPPStar Finalists

Every year, the Karsh Family KIPPStar Awards brings together the entire region to celebrate the unwavering determination of our students and families, the enduring support of our partners, and the dedication of our team and family. This year, the 10th annual celebration will take place at the legendary Universal Studios Hollywood on April 28. 

The celebration, named in honor of our esteemed champions and tireless education advocates Martha and Bruce Karsh, also includes an award ceremony for the highly coveted Teacher of the Year and Team Member of the Year awards. The finalists of these prestigious awards are nominated by colleagues who believe they personify KIPP SoCal’s core values and exemplify the recently-implemented anti-racist standards

Winners of these awards receive not only $10,000 but also the well-deserved recognition of their peers and the broader KIPP SoCal community. Their dedication to our students and families is a shining example of the transformative power of education. Let’s give it up for this year's 2023 KIPPStar finalists!

Teacher of the Year Finalists

  • Kayla Butler, KIPP Scholar Academy
  • Janelle Curtis, KIPP Scholar Academy
  • Elena Enriquez, KIPP Empower Academy
  • Pablo Flores, KIPP Comienza Community Prep-Upper School
  • Brenda Garcia, KIPP Promesa Prep
  • Eryn Harris, KIPP Compton Community School
  • Emily Hefferman, KIPP Empower Academy
  • Jason Orona, KIPP Promesa Prep
  • Sierra Scoggins, KIPP Academy of Opportunity
  • Laprea Smith, KIPP Academy of Opportunity
  • Keaira Vernon, KIPP Compton Community School
  • Stacey Yamada, KIPP Endeavor College Prep

Team Member of the Year Finalists

  • Maricela Almeida, KIPP Pueblo Unido-Lower School
  • Darcy Calhoun, Development
  • Isamar Campos, KIPP Philosophers Academy
  • Guillermo Fernandez, KIPP Iluminar Academy
  • Ashlee Fletcher, Talent Acquisition
  • Elva Layme Palencia, KIPP Promesa Prep
  • Angelica Lopez, Data & Analytics 
  • Jasmin Lopez, School Operations
  • Joanna Marmolejo, KIPP Comienza Community Prep-Lower School
  • Olga “Celina” Martinez, KIPP Vida Prep
  • Zarina Samano, KIPP Promesa Prep

We asked our finalists to share which KIPP SoCal core value is the most meaningful to them, and here’s what some of them had to say: 

"'The game is going to test you, never fold.' - Ermias ‘Nipsey Hussle’ Joseph Asghedom. These words are part of my kindergartener’s morning affirmations and serve as a reminder that even in the face of adversity, we can always persevere. My name is Elena Enriquez and I am a Kindergarten Teacher at KIPP Empower Academy. Courage and Integrity are the most meaningful values to me as an educator because they align with the morals and ethics I strive to ingrain in my students daily. At the University of Washington, we say, 'mistakes are opportunities to grow our brain,' which fosters a growth mindset in each student. I constantly remind students that it’s okay to get something wrong! When they are given grace for making mistakes, it creates an environment where they are not afraid to take on challenges and participate in class. Integrity is fostered in my classroom by reminding students to be role models and to do the right thing even when no one is watching. I encourage them to be the best version of themselves and always show kindness to one another. It’s my responsibility to not only help my students grow academically but interpersonally. These values will build resilient and genuine individuals that will translate into the real world.” –Elena Enriquez
“Leading with love has had the greatest impact on me as an educator. Knowing and loving my students and their families has allowed me to grow meaningful relationships with each of them. Celebrating their identities has allowed me to embrace pieces of MY identity I otherwise would have made small. It’s given me the privilege of birthday party invitations, football game tickets, and phone calls for homework help three years after they left my classroom for the last time. Leading with love in a KIPP School is healing work, it allows me the space and tools to examine and heal parts of my own experience in education and empowers me to advocate for the rights of all students.” –Emily Hefferman 
“The KIPP SoCal core value that is most valuable to me is 'Lead with Love.' The reason being is, without love, support, and passion for our students and families, educators would not be able to cultivate a safe and welcoming environment. It is extremely important to me to welcome my students each morning with none other than a big smile and a warm embrace. When I step foot in the multipurpose room each morning, the love that my students give me motivates me to put my best foot forward each day. I hope that when our students walk through the doors at KAO they, too, are motivated to display maximum effort in both character and academics in response to the love that I try my best to provide each and every day. In addition, the love and support I receive weekly from my student’s families reminds me that we are a team and it truly takes a village to raise our children. Our goal is to inspire our students to be their best selves and reach their maximum potential. I am honored to be a part of a community that encourages love from all parties involved in our scholars’ education.” –Sierra Scoggins
“The KIPP SoCal core value that is most meaningful to me as a teacher is Lead with Love because love is one of the most significant and authentic connections that one can make with others. Love is a bond, manifested through the series of one's actions of support, which is built and strengthened through the consistency, authenticity, and vulnerability of these supportive actions. As a teacher, my love for my students is manifested in what I do day to day from the simplicity of being present every day to the challenge of holding and keeping students accountable. Love is what motivates me to continue moving forward to do whatever it takes to ensure my students are in a space where they feel valued, respected, loved, safe, heard, and seen. I lead with love by preparing lessons with my students in mind; prepared to address issues such as segregation, inequity, discrimination, and prejudice that may trigger some and ensuring the lesson I prepare has components that are relevant and engaging for all of my students. My classroom is home for my students. If I see that they enter the room and are not in a positive space, I take the time to check in with them as a way to show them that I love and care for them. Students cannot learn in a space where they do not feel loved, valued, and represented.” –Laprea Smith

The Karsh Family KIPPStar Awards truly embodies the spirit of KIPP SoCal and is a night full of joy, admiration, and inspiration. We can’t wait to celebrate the achievements and successes of our KIPP SoCal community and honor those who have gone above and beyond their commitment to our mission.

Want to join our diverse team of dedicated professionals who believe in the power of education? Click the button below to learn more. 

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