Julie Wright: A Legacy of Impact

Julie Wright: A Legacy of Impact

As a society, we put immense pressure on young people to make the “right” decisions after graduating high school.

While some students opt for college, college isn’t always the “right” choice for everyone. And for students who do decide to go to college, navigating life after college to find the “right” career can also be challenging. 

After receiving invaluable feedback from KIPP alumni across the network, KIPP Public Schools recognized the need to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach previously implied by the name of our network-wide counseling program, “KIPP Through College.” 

KIPP decided to change the program’s name to “KIPP Forward” to symbolize the network’s commitment to honoring, affirming, and supporting the diverse pathways our KIPPsters pursue to lead a life of passion and purpose.

KIPP’s signature program for supporting alums through college, career, and beyond, now renamed KIPP Forward, is a powerful manifestation of KIPP’s mission and values. We embrace the challenge of ensuring our KIPPsters leave us “ready for life”— a step beyond “ready for college.” 

The new name also emphasized our counselors' impact on helping our KIPPsters push forward to tackle academic, professional, personal, or financial challenges along their journey. 

During this organizational change, Mike Wright, a recently retired big KIPPster from KIPP Public Schools, reached out to KIPP SoCal in hopes of making a transformational gift to celebrate the life and legacy of his wife, Julie Wright, who passed away in 2020.

Mike and Julie wanted to find a meaningful way to give back to KIPP SoCal’s “Team and Family,” a notion that deeply resonated with them during an extremely challenging time in their life, culminating with Julie’s passing in March 2020 after being diagnosed and treated for cancer. They also wanted to find a way to recognize Marcia Aaron for her leadership as KIPP SoCal’s founding and long-standing CEO and friendship during Julie’s journey with cancer.

Although Mike had recently retired from his role at KIPP, it was Julie who first introduced Mike to KIPP’s mission, having previously worked as an educator at a KIPP middle school in the Bay Area. But her journey to become a teacher wasn’t what you might expect. 

Before becoming a teacher, Julie worked in corporate America as a successful marketing and communications professional but knew deep down that there was more to life than for-profit work. She craved a life of purpose and knew her current career path wasn’t “right” for her anymore. 

Resolved to pursue something more socially purposeful, Julie made a drastic change in the middle of her career. She decided to get her teaching credentials and teach at a high school in the Bay Area. There, she witnessed the inequities faced by many of her students and families and parents' faith in education to provide access to a choice-filled life for their children. 

Several years later, Julie serendipitously connected with a school leader from KIPP Bayview Academy who needed to fill a 5th-grade reading teacher vacancy in the middle of the school year. Despite only having experience as a high school teacher, she decided to take on the challenge, and in a short amount of time, she grew a deep love and admiration for KIPP.

KIPP’s mission of educational equity went on to propel Julie's career from that point forward. First, as a program officer at the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, where she helped steward their investments in public education, and ultimately as the Executive Director at the Chamberlin Education Foundation

During this time, Mike also took a leap of faith in leaving corporate America to pursue a more purposeful life and credits Julie for inspiring him to dream bigger. Because of Julie’s connection to KIPP, Mike found a job on the finance team at KIPP Public Schools, where he worked closely with Marica Aaron in the formation and growth of KIPP LA and later KIPP SoCal. 

“Julie is the one who encouraged me to think beyond the traditional career path and, in many ways, modeled things for me,” said Mike. 

When Mike heard about the KIPP Forward’s desire to strengthen its career pathways counseling services, he felt this could be the perfect focus of his special gift. KIPP Forward’s career counseling helps guide students who, like Julie, are trying to find a fulfilling career path, even if they don’t get it “right” the first time. 

“Having access to careers that support a life of self-sufficiency is critical. Through KIPP Forward’s career pathways work, I hope we can coach, guide, and support students toward careers that give them a choice-filled life,” said Mike. 

To learn more about how to make a transformational donation to expand our KIPP Forward career pathways programs, services, and resources, please email development@kippsocal.org or visit our donation page