College-Bound Alum Reflects on the Influence of KIPP's College-Going Culture

College-Bound Alum Reflects on the Influence of KIPP's College-Going Culture

Sheldon H. spent the first four years of his life growing a deep passion for dinosaurs, nature, and wildlife. Little did he know it would be a passion he would carry into adulthood. 

After the passing of his beloved grandmother, Sheldon moved from Tuscon, Arizona, to Inglewood, California, at the age of five to live with his aunt and uncle, who became his primary source of strength and guidance. Because of his unique upbringing with baby boomer relatives, Sheldon grew to have strong moral values from a young age. He also quickly learned the importance of doing the right thing without expecting anything in return.

Sheldon’s aunt and uncle wanted to expose Sheldon to schools with a robust college-going culture, so they enrolled him at KIPP Empower Academy for elementary school as a founding kindergartener and KIPP Philosophers Academy for middle school. While at KIPP schools, Sheldon believes his teachers’ high expectations and daily school experiences gave him the skills and confidence to pursue a path to college. 

“The whole KIPP system is based on universities. They let you know that you're capable of going to college and that their goal is to get you as close to college as they possibly can,” said Sheldon. “From elementary school, I had a strong feeling that I'd be able to go to college. My dream college used to be Pepperdine, and then in middle school, it was Howard University. I always knew that this was a possibility for me.”

When it came time for high school at Stella High Charter Academy, Sheldon admits his transition came with challenges brought on by the pandemic. However, instead of letting these challenges get the best of him, he used them as motivation to create meaningful experiences that would further shape his character and grow his leadership skills.

Throughout high school, he actively participated in numerous extracurricular activities, such as the Associated Student Body, Black Student Union, varsity basketball, and varsity baseball. He was also part of his school’s Link Crew, a national program that pairs juniors and seniors with incoming first-year students to help them transition into high school. Outside of high school, he was a member of the NAACP Youth Council, 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, and served as a youth department leader at his church.

Another constant motivation throughout his high school career was his KIPP Forward counselors, especially Edgar Ortiz, who helped him navigate the college application process by creating a personalized college checklist for him to follow throughout his high school career. 

“Mr. Ortiz helped me by far and has had the greatest impact on my college success journey. If he hadn’t been a part of my college application journey, I would not have had anywhere near the level of success I have had,” said Sheldon. 

In addition to frequently meeting with his counselors, Sheldon took advantage of KIPP Forwards’ additional programs, services, and resources, such as utilizing the KIPPer text chatbot, applying to scholarship and financial aid opportunities, and attending college tours. As a result, he was able to apply to 16 colleges and will be attending UC Merced in the fall. Driven by his passion for the environment and desire to make a difference, he plans to major in environmental system sciences and join the UC Merced Yosemite Leadership Program

“Taking advantage of the educational opportunities that KIPP provides has done so much for me, especially when I see so many students who don’t have these support systems and fall behind,” he said. “I’m so grateful for KIPP Forward and all the different resources they have for students like me.”

He encourages other KIPPsters to take advantage of the opportunities and resources available through KIPP Forward. Looking back on his journey, Sheldon believes his loving aunt and uncle, his KIPP school experiences, and his dedicated KIPP Forward counselors were instrumental in helping him achieve his postsecondary goals of attending college. 

This year, we are proud to share that our Class of 2023 KIPP Forward alums received 1,323 college acceptances. Click the button below to learn more about our KIPP Forward program and make an appointment to connect with one of our dedicated counselors

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