Using Education to Create Healthy Lifestyles

Study after study shows that when students come to school hungry, it is harder for them to focus and learn at the levels of which they are capable. In some cases, students may have access to food, but the food lacks the nutrients they need to live a healthy lifestyle. Much of the east side of Indianapolis is considered a food desert, an area where there is little access to fresh foods or grocery stores, and it is difficult for families to get nutritious food at affordable prices within a reasonable distance. This includes Martindale-Brightwood and the surrounding neighborhoods where 80 percent of KIPP Indy students live. This means that many of our students and families may not have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods that make up a healthy diet. That is why KIPP Indy teacher, Ronak Shah, partnered with The Kitchen Community to help bring a Learning Garden to our school. “A Learning Garden is a school garden that provides an opportunity for us to not only grow edible food here at school, but allows us to teach students and families how to grow a variety of foods at their own homes and in their own gardens” Ronak went on to say that the garden would be available to teachers throughout the school to use for their lessons, and he especially looks forward to taking his students out to the garden for units covering earth and environmental science. Ronak knew that in order to start a school garden, it would be necessary to have the additional support of community partners. When The Kitchen Community, an...

Meet KIPP Indy: Brianna Aikens

Brianna Aikens did not always know that she wanted to be a teacher at KIPP Indy, but she did know that she wanted to work with kids on the east side of Indianapolis. Growing up and attending school in Warren Township, Bri and her family were part of the community here on the east side. As the oldest of all of her siblings and cousins, she was often asked to babysit and care for her younger family members, and this instilled in her a deep love for working with children. That’s why when Bri was accepted to the Ball State School of Education, she decided to major in Early Childhood Education. After graduation, Bri got her first position teaching preschool at the Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC), a community organization in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis dedicated to bridging cultural, racial, and economic differences in order to support and nurture the people in the community by providing holistic programs that empower, encourage, and engender a vision of hope. During her first year at EMCC, Bri was able to realize the love that she has for working with the students in our community, and through her work she discovered our schools. “I loved teaching at EMCC because of the relationship they have with the community and the impact I was able to have with my students, and I knew that I would be able to have a similar experience with KIPP. I was still in contact with one of my professors from Ball State, and she told me that one of her former students taught at...

Mock Interview Day at KIPP Indy

At KIPP Indy our goal is to help our students and alumni develop the knowledge, skills, and character strengths they need to succeed throughout their education and in the competitive world beyond. One way that we provide this opportunity to students is through our annual Mock Interview Day, organized through the KIPP Through College (KTC) program, which supports all of our students and alumni on their path to and through college. During Mock Interview Day, volunteers have the opportunity to conduct mock interviews with our 7th grade students. Every 7th grade student participates in two interviews, giving them the opportunity to interact with adults from the community in a formal interview environment and practice their communication skills. Katie Johnson, a KTC counselor, leads the organization of this event for our students. “This event helps prepare our students for all types of interviews, including work and the individual high school placement interviews that all of our students complete in 8th grade. By giving our 7th graders the opportunity to practice their interview skills, it builds their confidence for when they have to do it for real and for when they are in other professional settings.” One aspect of Mock Interview Day that makes it truly special is the inclusion of community and business leaders from Indianapolis as interviewers. When asked why KTC looks for volunteers from the community rather than just having teachers conduct the interviews, she said, “By engaging members of our community rather than teachers, it creates a more authentic interviewing experience. This lets our students know that there are professionals in our community that look like them...

Meet KIPP Indy: Rashay Earl

Rashay Earl is a second grade teacher and grade level chair at KIPP Indy Unite Elementary. She is finishing her third year of teaching and has been with KIPP Indy since she started her career as a Teach For America corps member. A lifelong Ohioan and graduate of The Ohio State University, Rashay has fallen in love with the city of Indianapolis, our school, and her students. “The best part of working at KIPP Indy is definitely the kids,” says Rashay. She is passionate about helping our students succeed – both inside and outside the classroom. “They make it worthwhile to get up in the morning. I’m inspired and motivated by our KIPPsters.” Rashay goes on to reflect that although it is the students that motivate her to do this work every day, it is the support she receives as a teacher that keeps her coming back to KIPP Indy. She appreciates how KIPP Indy goes above and beyond to help teachers meet their personal and professional goals. “KIPP Indy encourages people to get ‘at-bats’ or practice in roles and opportunities of interest to them so that they can take on more and grow over the course of a school year. I constantly feel like I am being challenged to be the best possible teacher I can be for my students.” One of Rashay’s favorite experiences teaching has been her regular ‘Milkshakes with Ms. Earl’ dates with students. For this, she periodically selects a student who has been behaving or performing really well in class and she takes them to Steak ‘n Shake for a milkshake date. They discuss...

Guest Blog from KIPP Indy College Prep Principal Nick Perry

As the School Leader of KIPP Indy College Prep Middle, I am incredibly proud of our students, staff, and families for our “A” rating from the state based on last year’s achievement and remarkable growth by our students. Success is something we have to work for, not something that is given, so it is rewarding for all of us at KIPP Indy to see that hard work come to fruition. As a school community, we believe that all of our students will learn and achieve at high levels if given the opportunity. Building off our “A” rating last year, we have worked hard to take our programming to the next level throughout this year. On top of the core subjects we emphasize in our curriculum, we are excited about the unique opportunities we are able to offer our students to enrich their education, including our specials, extracurricular programs, and field lesson experiences. For instance, this year marks the first time our students have access to a computer science and coding class. In addition to becoming programming experts, they are developing important skills like critical thinking and problem-solving that they can apply to other classes as well. Additionally, through extra-curricular opportunities like our percussion ensemble, cooking club, and sports, our students are able to explore their interests and find new passions. Finally, during field experiences, we spend time with our students in the community at places like the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Indianapolis Repertory Theater, where students are exposed to new experiences, expanding their perspectives and challenging them think and learn in new ways. On top of these, each...

Meet KIPP Indy: Katie Speer

Katie Speer is the 8th grade science teacher and grade-level team leader at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle. This is her second year at KIPP Indy and her third year as a teacher. Katie grew up in Bloomington, IN and attended Indiana University before applying to Teach for America, which is how she started her teaching career in Indianapolis. She has loved her time with our school because, “everyone is on the same page at KIPP Indy. It’s a really supportive culture and there’s a sense of community school wide.” One experience that drives Katie’s work is seeing students walk across the stage at 8th grade graduation. She loves hearing them say thanks and tell her what their ambitions and goals are for the future. Katie also enjoys seeing her kids accepted into high school and sharing their stories of success. Katie remembers one of her students initially wasn’t accepted into the magnet high school she wanted to attend after she graduated from 8th grade at KIPP Indy. “Ashantae was so bright and after putting in the research and visiting the school, she knew it was the right fit for her.” Once the student found out, she asked KIPP Indy teachers and staff, including Katie, to write letters on her behalf to help appeal the school’s decision to deny her admittance. Ultimately, the school granted her a meeting and she spoke in front of a committee about why she should be accepted. They ended up granting her admittance. “Something special about KIPP Indy is that we empower our students to advocate for themselves and never give up. As a...

Meet KIPP Indy: Dominique Cureton

Dominique Cureton was working at a large corporation in Atlanta when she realized she was not in a position to be able to contribute to her community in the way she wanted to. Those feelings intensified after the birth of her daughter, and it motivated her to think about how she could switch careers. “My daughter gave me clarity of purpose. I had been volunteering with kids and coaching a youth basketball league, but it wasn’t enough.” She decided to return to the city she grew up in to give back. Dominique applied and was accepted to the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows (ITF) program, part of the broader The New Teacher Project umbrella, which is dedicated to transforming accomplished professionals and college graduates into excellent teachers. She went through a rigorous teacher-training program with ITF and ultimately received her masters in teaching from Marian University and certification. She is now in her third year with KIPP Indy as a 7th grade literacy teacher and the grade level team leader. Dominique also has a focus on special education and is responsible for teaching inclusion classes. She says that teaching at KIPP Indy motivates her because, “I have the opportunity to shape young lives, build them up, and motivate them to create change for the future. The key to solving many societal issues we currently face lies with the youth of this country.” Dominique also appreciates that teaching has made her feel part of a community of people who care about her as a person, not just about the results she’s achieving. She has felt valued from the start of her teaching...

Kristen Chaffee explains why she thinks teachers need to build relationships with their students

One of the keys to being a successful educator is building strong relationships with students and their families. Those strong relationships create trust between students and the adults in the school, allowing students to feel safe and valued each day in their classrooms and throughout the building. At our middle school, students receive KIPP Cash, a school-based currency that students can use on their KIPP Cash Pay Day to purchase school supplies, t-shirts, and even staff experiences. Ms. Chaffee, a Student Services director at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle, and Ms. Corya, a 6th grade humanities teacher, got to experience the power of these relationships first hand when they took two KIPP Indy students to join them at Cake Bake for one of these staff experiences. Here is what Ms. Chaffee had to say about the experience in the staff newsletter: “It’s so nice for kids to get to know teachers as real people,” Amaris announced as she dug into one of the six gigantic slices of cake spread out before her last Friday at Cake Bake. Amaris had cashed in for a staff experience and she, “bff” Janiyah, Ms. Corya and I were attempting to sample pretty much every dessert at the bakery. I’ve sometimes wondered what makes the staff experience a grand prize– why is time with a teacher (who kids see every day) so highly valued? Is it just about eating cake, watching the Pacers and playing laser tag? Partly. But I don’t think that’s all. Amaris remembered the Cake Bake pictures from last year and described racing to the table at KIPP Cash Payday to...

Meet KIPP Indy: Barato Britt

Barato Britt is the Executive Director of the Leadership and Legacy Academy at the Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC), a 75-year-old institution that provides wrap-around services for over 3,000 low-income families, primarily in the Martindale-Brightwood community where KIPP Indy is located. In addition to his work with EMCC, Barato sits on the KIPP Indy Board of Directors and has been a key partner and advocate for our schools for many years. Barato first got involved with KIPP Indy through his work with EMCC. “As a longtime advocate for school choice I was familiar with KIPP, but after meeting Ms. Pelino (KIPP Indy’s Executive Director) I knew the school was on a positive trajectory.” That, along with his deep belief in the mission and vision of our schools, is why he joined our Board. Barato says KIPP Indy is unique in the community because of our approach, diversity, and commitment to creating a college going culture for all of our students. He goes on to talk about KIPP Indy’s commitment to the Martindale-Brightwood community. “The school is open and transparent, and clearly is committed to contributing consciously and positively to the overall community fabric.” Barato is excited to see KIPP Indy establish a relationship with Indianapolis Public Schools and what that means for educational outcomes for students. He believes that greater collaboration between traditional public and public charter schools demonstrates that all community stakeholders can work together for the sake of kids. “I am gratified that KIPP Indy has embraced, with responsibility, working in partnership with IPS. What is unquestionably true is that many of our students in most need...

KIPP Indy’s Partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools

In 2014, Indiana passed groundbreaking legislation that established Innovation Network Schools. Innovation Network Schools combine the freedom and flexibility of autonomous schools with access to services and financial support from a large district. At KIPP Indy, our elementary and middle school were both selected to become some of the first Innovation Network Schools to partner with Indianapolis Public Schools. Through this partnership, IPS supports KIPP Indy with the opportunity to lease a facility and the access to essential, cost-effective services such as transportation and building maintenance. This is imperative to our work because, as a public charter school, we receive fewer public tax dollars than district schools. Dr. Ferebee, the Superintendent of IPS, highlighted the importance of this partnership for our students, saying, “Our partnership with KIPP Indy is a great example of the power of the innovation model. We strive to provide KIPP with cost-effective transportation and facilities so that they can direct more dollars to teaching and learning.” With this support from the district, we are able to ensure that more of our funding goes directly into the classroom to provide the best educational resources for our students. However, the partnership between KIPP Indy and IPS is about more than just a school building and transportation. Innovation Network Schools provide a unique opportunity for all public schools, both charter and district, to improve educational outcomes for students in schools across the city. Emily Pelino, the Executive Director of KIPP Indy, said, “Families want the best educational opportunities for their students, regardless of what type of school they attend.” The president of the IPS school board, Mary Ann...