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Notes from the Delta - May 2014 Newsletter

From the Executive Director

Dear Friends, Family, & Supporters,

We hope this message finds you all well as we seek to finish the school year strong. There were several positive takeaways from the 2013-2014 KIPP Healthy Schools & Regions survey data we recently received from the KIPP Foundation. First, the percentage of parents who are satisfied or very satisfied with our schools jumped from 79% last year to 90% this year. Our Blytheville campus, in particular, had 96% of parents responding positively and 99% of its parents are proud their student is a KIPPster, one of the top marks in the KIPP network. A big thanks goes out to our parents for their recent involvement, from fathers of students at our elementary school meeting to increase their engagement at school within the “Donuts with Dads” program, to parents playing an active role in planning and setting up the first-ever MAP Madness at our Helena middle school, a full-day of activities for students on the Tunica Queen.  As we continue to grow out our schools, I am proud of the fact that our staff and parents are increasingly working to together to provide the best possible education for our students.

Character development is another one of our goals and we know that extracurricular and athletic participation can play a critical role in supplying students with the zest, grit, and curiosity they will need to move to and through college. Both our junior high and senior high track teams in Helena enjoyed an excellent season and performed well at recent district and state track meets.  Our young ladies finished fifth in the state and two placed in the top eight in individual events. Tamia Robinson, Class of 2016, was crowned a state champion as she placed first in the 100 and 200 meter dash. We wish Tamia good effort as she moves on to the “Meet of Champs” in Heber Springs, Arkansas, on May 17th where she will compete with top performers around the state.  Congratulations to Coach Tracy Duncan for helping change the culture of women’s athletics at our schools, a change we expect to see translated to all of our girls’ sports programs. 

Lastly, we have a couple of important events coming up. The Class of 2014 will have its graduation ceremony at the Lily Peter Auditorium at Phillips Community College on May 22nd at 7 pm. We are proud to host Darrin Williams, the CEO of Southern Bancorp, member of our Board of Directors, and member of the Arkansas House of Representatives as our keynote speaker. It should be a fantastic night for all those in attendance! In addition, our elementary wing and playground expansion project officially breaks ground this month. We are excited to finally be on our way to providing our youngest students with extra space for play and imagination. Please look for more updates on the construction project and our eventual ribbon cutting ceremony for opening!

Have a great month, everyone!

Scott Shirey
Executive Director


A Conversation with the Clintons

On April 17, 2014 a group of KIPP Delta female students were given an incredible opportunity to speak with Chelsea Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The conversation, which included just three other schools from across the country via Skype, as well as a live audience in New York City, was moderated by America Ferrara. Titled Girls: A No Ceilings Conversation, this event was the first in what will be a series of conversations with girls and young women. In November of 2013, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton launched a new Clinton Foundation initiative called No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project. The aim of this project is to gather and analyze data to determine what gains have been made in the past 20 years, and also to determine what obstacles are still preventing women from fully participating in every aspect of society.

During the conversation, KIPP Delta student Tykeena Watson gave Chelsea Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton some background information about their empowering role models in Helena, namely their mothers and grandmothers, then posed the question, “What mindset or strategies are most important as we seek to empower ourselves to reach our full academic potential in college?” Our students represented KIPP Delta very well and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to speak directly to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, two Arkansan women who have made in immeasurable impact on our country and the world. The full conversation can be viewed online here. KIPP Delta’s portion of the conversation begins at 48:55.



U of A Announces KIPP Partnership

KIPP has announced that it will partner with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in an effort to increase college completion rates for underserved KIPP students in the Delta and nationwide. “We are thrilled to partner with the University of Arkansas,” said Scott Shirey, founder and executive director of KIPP Delta. “The U of A has been a champion for our KIPPsters for a long time now, so this partnership is truly a celebration of our shared commitment to supporting KIPP students and alumni to and through college.”

Under this agreement, the U of A plans to recruit and enroll 5-7 KIPP alumni, starting in the 2014-15 school year. A grant from the Walton Family Foundation will enable the university to provide full financial support for up to 6 eligible students. The partnership also includes academic support services such as a College Ambassador program and work-study funding for students who mentor KIPP alumni at the U of A.

“The KIPP Delta program has achieved remarkable results in a very short time, and this partnership is a way to help the students move successfully from a high school program to the university level,” said Charles Robinson, U of A vice chancellor for diversity and community relations. “Most of KIPP’s students are first generation college students and face unique challenges, but the U of A is dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by first-generation college attendees. We are committed to bringing students from diverse backgrounds to this campus, giving them a great education and providing the resources to help them succeed and graduate. KIPP Delta is a tremendous resource in the state of Arkansas, and we welcome the opportunity to work with these students.”

The University of Arkansas has been a dedicated supporter of KIPP Delta Public Schools since our founding class of students began applying to college five years ago. U of A offers a summer pre-college program specifically for KIPP Delta students, which allows high school students to experience college classes as well as life on a college campus. By the time they reach graduation day, over 75% of KIPP Delta students have spent time learning on the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville campus. This partnership formalizes the relationship between the two educational institutions, and takes the commitment one step further by making college more affordable for KIPP students.

The U of A joins a growing list of KIPP college partners, including Brown University, Duke University, Georgetown University, UC-Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania and Spelman College.  A complete list of KIPP’s college partners can be found here.


KIPP Delta Collegiate High is #2 in Arkansas!

For the fourth time in as many years, KIPP Delta Collegiate High School (DCHS) has been named one of the top five high schools in Arkansas. Last week, U.S. News & World Report announced that DCHS is the #2 high school in the state of Arkansas, as well as the #92 charter school and #567 high school in the entire country. These annual rankings are determined by test scores and college readiness indicators. KIPP DCH was #2 in Arkansas in 2011, and #4 in 2012 and 2013. More information about this ranking can be found here.


A College Degree with Delta Roots: Dominique’s Journey to Vanderbilt

Dominique Bragg was a founding member of KIPP Delta College Preparatory School in 2002, and four years later became a founding member of KIPP Delta Collegiate High School. As a rising senior in 2009, Dominique earned acceptance into the inaugural class at the Aspirnaut Summer Research Internship Program at Vanderbilt University. With a goal of exposing students from rural communities to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), Aspirnaut gave Dominique the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a university lab alongside professors and doctoral students. This experience set Dominique on a path to enroll at Vanderbilt University in 2010 and become one of the first KIPP Delta students to graduate from a four-year college in 2014. Learn more about Dominique’s journey in a moving video here.


KIPPster to Work on Global Sustainability Project

KIPP Delta students are continuing to receive acceptances to prestigious pre-college summer programs that will send them to every corner of the country. These experiences are truly life-changing for students, as they provide a glimpse into college life and introduce students to colleges that have high graduation rates.

Briana Hardnett, DCH Class of 2016, has been accepted to the Learn, Experience, Navigate, and Solve (LENS) Program at Wake Forest University.  Briana will be the first of our KIPP Delta students to attend this program. LENS is a three-week summer program that equips current high school students with an academic foundation necessary to become a strong leader. Rising juniors and seniors live on Wake Forest’s beautiful Reynolda Campus and examine some of the world’s most pressing challenges through inter-disciplinary lenses. By taking this unique and multifaceted approach, LENS trains students to examine problems holistically with an eye towards crafting creative solutions. Students in the 2014 program will confront the challenge of global sustainability.  Wake Forest University professors will expose students to the biological, ecological, political, economic, social, and legal facets of sustainability. The Living Labs portion of the program will allow students to take excursions to local farms, food markets, and water sources to examine the ways in which community leaders are altering their practices to be more sustainable. Throughout the program, students will work in small project groups to craft a community action plan that addresses a real-world sustainability need. Briana is thrilled to be attending such an exciting summer program, and we are very proud of her acceptance!

Stantaisha Murry, DCH Class of 2016, has been accepted to the Technology Awareness Program (TAP) at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. TAP is a one-week residency program designed to introduce students of color to the field of accounting, finance, and computer information systems. Students who attend will have an opportunity to participate in the preparation and presentation of a challenging team project as well as interact with minority professionals from business and government and observe them in their work environments. Stantaisha was accepted through a competitive process that only admits 25 students per year from across the country.

Draper Williams, a seventh grader at KIPP Delta College Preparatory School, was recently accepted into the Deerfield STEP summer program.  His acceptance allows him to spend the summer at Deerfield Academy, a prestigious boarding school located in Western Massachusetts.  He will take part in high school level classes in English and Biology with KIPPsters from across the country. The Deerfield STEP program is offered only to seventh grade students at KIPP middle schools. Draper was selected through a competitive process, which included multiple essays and teacher recommendations. Last summer, three KIPP Delta students attended the Deerfield STEP program and they had wonderful experiences.

Another program that has provided several KIPP Delta students with invaluable summer experiences is the Arkansas Governor’s School (AGS). Ebony Ivory, a junior at KIPP DCH, has recently been accepted to the AGS drama program for the summer of 2014. Arkansas Governor's School is a 4-week summer camp at Hendrix College for students considered talented in one of several areas, and students are chosen on the basis of achievement in that area and potential for growth. Ebony is incredibly talented and has been in many of our theatrical performances including Grease, 12 Angry Men, and Guys and Dolls.  She also participates in choir under Mr. Malinowski's direction.


KIPP DCPS School Spirit Shines

This April, KIPP DCPS hosted it’s first-ever 7th and 8th grade dance. The event was made possible by incredible collaboration between staff members, KIPP parents, and high school students from KIPP DCH. All middle school students in attendance had a wonderful evening, full of fabulous memories. The success of the inaugural dance was followed up by the greatest spirit week that DCPS has ever seen. Students dressed according to each theme’s day, which included twin day, pajama day, and geek day. The week culminated with school spirit day, which encouraged students to dress from head to toe in their class color. In addition to theme days, spirit week also included a dodgeball tournament organized by teachers, an “Are you smarter than a KIPPster?” competition, a bake sale sponsored by KIPP parents, and a Saturday MAP Madness event to celebrate the final MAP testing session of the year. Pictures from DCPS spirit week can be viewed here.


Announcements and Highlights

Upcoming Events

  • Senior Signing Day - May 14, 2014
  • KIPP Delta Graduation - May 22, 2014
  • Last Day of School - May 28, 2014
  • First Day of Summer School - July 14, 2014
  • Prove the Possible Gala - October 16, 2014

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Carissa Godwin
Chief of External Affairs