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Notes from the Delta - March 2014 Newsletter

From the Executive Director

Dear Friends, Family, & Supporters,

At KIPP Delta, we know character matters and can be used as a tool to increase academic achievement. This is perhaps most clearly played out within our KIPP through College program, where students are pushed to demonstrate significant grit, curiosity, and optimism in applying to summer programs, colleges, and universities. To that end, please find below a brief update from our KIPP through College Director, Amy Charpentier:

Tykeena Watson and Kevin Martin, sophomores at KIPP Delta Collegiate High School, were accepted into the Brown University's Leadership Institute. Jasmin Fleuranvil, a sophomore, was also accepted into Brown University's Pre-College Summer Program with a Dean's Scholarship. These three students were accepted through a competitive application process and academic merit.  All three will travel to Providence, Rhode Island this summer to spend three weeks at Brown University.  Brown University is an Ivy League school and a KIPP partner.  These three KIPPsters will be KIPP Delta's first students to attend an Ivy League summer program.  Congratulations to Tykeena, Kevin, and Jasmin!  These students are just three of several others with impressive college acceptances.  Ms. Mullen, Ms. Graul, and Mr. Ellis all played an important supporting role in ensuring these acceptances could happen. 

Congratulations to Ms. Charpentier, the KTC team, and all of these students’ teachers on a job well done!

I am excited to share we are inching ever closer to meeting our fundraising goal for our elementary wing and playground expansion project. With the end of this long-anticipated project in sight, we are asking everyone to keep pushing until the fundraising target is met. Currently, we have nearly $980,000 pledged and received for the Capital Campaign out of a $1.2 million target. While we are cautiously optimistic on receiving a few donation requests by mid-April, we do want to do everything possible to ensure financial responsibility through construction. Please do continue spreading the word! We are so close to the finish line.  With your help, I know we can complete this project and call it a success!

Lastly, more than any time in recent memory, our collective team possesses a high level of optimism with regard to our acquisition and retention of talent. We anticipate increasing our instructional staff retention by at least ten percentage points from last year and our HR team and managers have been deeply engaged in conversations with undecided staff in order to push that number even higher. We are already issuing offer letters to new teacher candidates for the 2014 school year, and will continue to see more and more candidates roll in early this spring.  If you know of any strong instructional leaders in your network that you think we should cultivate a relationship with, please do reach out to our Human Resources Director, Jamie VanDeWalle at

Keep Climbing,

Scott Shirey
Executive Director


KIPPsters Take on Harvard

Meaghan Graul, math teacher at KIPP Delta Collegiate High School, has played an incredible role in the lives of our eldest students. Beyond the strong academics in her classroom, Ms. Graul has opened the eyes and expanded the worldviews of countless students during her five years at KIPP Delta. One way that Ms. Graul provides students with powerful experiences is by taking a group to participate in the Harvard Model Congress each year. Harvard Model Congress (HMC), which takes place in five cities around the world, is considered the premier government simulation program for high school students. The 2014 HMC in Boston, which took place February 20-23, was a truly special experience for five of KIPP Delta’s hardest working scholars.

At HMC, students assume the roles of Senators, Representatives, and lobbyists and spend their four days participating in committee sessions and making decisions about legislation. Some students take time to warm up to the process, while others are comfortable diving in to the action.  Our KIPP Delta representatives made us very proud this year.  Representative Tykeena Brooks made sure her voice was heard during the first Education Committee meeting. Representative Brooks insisted that the committee define “technological innovation in education” before debating whether or not to give companies tax breaks for providing it. Senator Stantaisha Murray displayed an impressive understanding of a politician’s role, as she thoughtfully and deliberately ensured her votes were in line with her state’s and constituents’ best interests. Senator Destiny Mikulski actively participated from the start, making a speech in support of contraception availability just ten minutes into her first committee session. As a lobbyist for Amnesty International, Danielle testified in front of the Armed Services Committee, seeking solutions to wide-spread allegations of sexual assault in the military.

By having these experiences, KIPP Delta students are learning countless lessons about themselves and their world. Senator Nia Landrieu served on the Homeland Security Committee and, quite self-reflectively, realized that she needed better vocabulary to push her understanding and participation to the next level. Participating in high-level discussions with their peers from across the country pushes KIPP Delta students to think about what it takes to continue climbing the mountain to and through college. In addition to the academic lessons learned at HMC, students also learned a plethora of life lessons. Students ventured through airport security and navigated an airport for the first time. KIPPsters became friends with their KIPP cousins from Massachusetts and discovered that our Team & Family extends beyond the Delta. Inspired by their evening spent together at the home of Ms. Graul’s parents, our students are now beginning to orchestrate a potential exchange program for KIPPsters from Arkansas and Massachusetts. All of these experiences are essential to preparing our students for college.

Our students also had the privilege of meeting with David Evans, a senior Harvard admissions officer and a Phillips County native. Mr. Evans' parents were both sharecroppers, and he and his six siblings were orphaned when David was 16. His older sister kept the family together and instilled in them the greatest value their parents had instilled in her: education was freedom. All seven siblings started college, five graduated, and three now have advanced degrees. Our KIPP Delta students were moved by Mr. Evans’ vivid stories of grit and optimism. Thank you to Ms. Graul for her continued efforts to fundraise for and plan this exceptional trip for KIPP Delta students each year!



Celebrations Abound at KIPP Delta ELA

In honor of Black History Month, teachers at KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy infused each and every content area with similar themes and exciting lessons. The month culminated with a week-long celebration full of student performances and creative art projects. On Monday, February 24, KIPPsters kicked off the week by reading and discussing inspirational quotes from famous African-Americans. Each student decorated their printed quote and wore it for the day, an idea inspired by the “I am a man” signs worn during the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike. On Wednesday, students created an “I have a dream” chain by writing one of their dreams on a construction paper hand. The hands are displayed on the wall of the Multi-Purpose Room for students and visitors to view. Throughout the week, each grade level was given the opportunity to perform in front of the entire student body. Some students sang songs from the Freedom Rides of 1961, while others recited poems or portions of famous speeches.

In conjunction with Black History Month, all students studied famous black artists and created masterpieces in their style. Each grade level was assigned one artist who they studied in depth. Featured artists included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jacob Lawrence, Corey Barksdale, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Faith Ringgold. The student work has been displayed by Ms. Painter and KIPP Delta ELA has been transformed into an art gallery. The gallery will continue to be open to parents and visitors throughout March.

Pictures of the student art work and featured artists can be found here.

On Friday, the entire school attended a special Hour of Power at the Malco Theatre. During their Hour of Power, students watched a slide show of their week and sang the Black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Additionally, Kewanza Williams, from Teach for America Mississippi, spoke to our students about the importance of grit and how this character strength relates to Black History Month. Ms. Williams was followed up by The Hughes Singers, a local musical group that includes Toccara Franklin, a first grade Instructional Assistant at KIPP Delta ELA. Students and staff alike enjoyed the festive and empowering event. Thank you to Ms. Abby Vining for organizing all of the Black History Month activities and celebrations!


Geeks & Madness Galore in Blytheville!

KIPP Blytheville College Preparatory School (BCPS) is celebrating its fourth annual Geek Week this week. Geek Week is a spirit-building event that encourages students and teachers celebrate the true meaning of being a geek. Geek Week is a spirit-building event that encourages students and teachers to celebrate the true meaning of being a geek. At KIPP BCPS, we define a geek as someone who is passionate about an interest.

Geek Week culminates with Pi Day (3.14), which includes several of its own traditions. Students compete in a “pi-off” by reciting as many digits of pi as possible, all from memory. The school record is 184 digits and it is held by Aditi Panda. Students also have the opportunity to “pie” select teachers in the face, before enjoying some delicious pies made by the KIPP BCPS PTO. Friday, March 14 will also mark the second annual Benchmark Madness event, a 24-hour fun-filled school day. After completing their traditional school day, all students who have earned permission to attend will stay at school until Saturday morning. Teachers, staff, and parents have educational activities, sports competitions, problem solving games, and a midnight dance party planned. Students will eat dinner, enjoy a late night snack, and be served an early morning breakfast before being “dismissed” on Saturday morning, March 15. Benchmark Madness is a kick-off to the final weeks of preparation before the Benchmark Exams are taken in April. Last year’s inaugural Benchmark Madness event was a successful culture-building event that brought students, teachers, and parents together for a very memorable evening.

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"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"

To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ 110 th birthday on March 2, students at KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy are creating Seuss-inspired artwork in Ms. Painter’s class. Kindergarten students are creating trees styled after The Lorax, while first and second graders are crafting Cat in the Hat drawings. Dr. Seuss, or Theodor Geisel, wrote and illustrated Cat in the Hat in 1957 to assist William Spaulding, the director of the education division of Houghton Mifflin. The goal was to write an interesting children’s book using only a few hundred simple words, in order to better teach students how to read. Dr. Seuss was able to use only 220 different words in a book that is 1,702 words long. He followed this feat by writing Green Eggs and Ham with only 50 different words. Green Eggs and Ham is the best-selling children’s book of all time, and it is still widely used by educators and parents. At KIPP Delta ELA, our students are surrounded by Dr. Seuss books and several KIPPsters dressed up as his characters for Halloween. Thank you to Dr. Seuss for his incredible work that was touched the lives of so many people across the world!

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Announcements and Highlights

Upcoming Events

  • Benchmark Madness in Blytheville - March 14, 2014
  • Spring Break - March 22-30, 2014
  • KIPP Delta Graduation - May 22, 2014

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If you are a journalist or a member of the media and have an inquiry, please contact:

Carissa Godwin
Chief of External Affairs