On Friday, KIPP Colorado students, teachers, leaders, and community members took time to reflect on the killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African-American man who was fatally shot by a Tulsa police officer one week prior. Mr. Crutcher was the father of a KIPP Tulsa student. He was a beloved father and brother, a member of his church choir, and a college student. He was the 193rd African-American to be killed by the police in the United States this year.
Each school chose to reflect on Mr. Crutcher’s senseless death in its own way. KIPP Denver Collegiate High School held a candle-lighting ceremony with a moment of silence on Friday morning. During the solemn ceremony, students, teachers, and members of the community gathered outside to light candles and stand in solidarity with their KIPP Tulsa Team and Family.
School Leader Anna Mendez-Hickman spoke to those gathered.
“We are hurting,” she said. “We mourn with our cousins at KIPP Tulsa and everyone affected by racism and violence in the country. But you are the hope to change this world. Never forget that.”
Asked what the candle lighting ceremony meant to him, student Jose said, “We’re all in it together. We’ve all witnessed this; we’ve all seen what’s going on, and it could happen here in our community. The fact that we’re all gathered here together just shows me that we’re all together, and we’ve all got each others’ backs—even though we’re far away from Tulsa.”
Later in the afternoon, KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy lowered the American flag to half-mast, and held a moment of silence.
KSPA students said that it “was good to come together and talk about these things,” though the recent news was “upsetting because there’s still racism after all these years.”
Other KIPP Colorado schools chose to incorporate opportunities to discuss and reflect on the tragedy in their classrooms, advisory groups, and assemblies. KIPP schools across the country joined in similar actions on Friday in solidarity with the KIPP Tulsa community.
In an email to the KIPP Colorado staff, KIPP Colorado Schools Executive Director, Kimberlee Sia, committed to action, writing, “At KIPP Colorado, we will NOT be a bystander and will NOT remain silent. We stand in solidarity with our fellow KIPPsters across the country in a call for justice.”
KIPP Foundation CEO, Richard Barth, wrote a letter to the entire KIPP community, in which he urged systemic change to stop the violence against people of color by those in positions of power. You can read his full letter here.
What happens when you ask an entire class of KIPPsters to spend a full day devoted to dropping labels, judgments, and walls and working to build one another up by creating a supportive environment at school?
For 9th and 10th grade students at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School and KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, the answer came during Challenge Day, a program designed to help students forge deep connections with their peers and build a school culture of respect and acceptance.
The day started out with music, games, and tons of high-energy activities to help KIPPsters get to know as many of their fellow classmates as possible. After dancing, running, and a game of giant volleyball, KIPPsters gathered as a group to hear Challenge Day leaders share their stories of growing up, followed by a discussion about how people often don’t see what’s really going beneath the image that people project.
After lunch—and more games—KIPPsters split up into small “family groups,” where they could choose to share something that people might not know about them. Around the circle, students and the adult facilitators shared stories that started with, “if you really knew me, you would know…” It was a powerful exercise, and each day, many emotions rose within the family groups.
The afternoon was dedicated to addressing concepts like oppression, discrimination, and equity through activities that allowed KIPPsters and adult facilitators to express themselves in a safe, supportive atmosphere.
Finally, at the end of a long, intense day, KIPPsters pledged to be the change they want to see in their schools. Armed with a new understanding of both the previously-unseen challenges faced by their peers and the tools to make their school a supportive and loving environment, KIPPsters now begin their school year with a plan to treat each other with respect and love.
Students and adults alike attest that Challenge Day was a powerful, deeply moving experience, and one that provided an important avenue for empathy and understanding.
“Many students realized that they all are going though struggles right now,” said Rachael Bibby, Director of School Operations at KNDLA. “They learned they can lean on one another in a way they never knew they could before.”
We’re grateful to all the volunteers who helped make Challenge Day possible for students at both KIPP Colorado high schools.
KIPPsters in every grade at KIPP Colorado Schools spend a lot of time preparing for their future, whether it’s college, a career, or a life filled with choice.
On Wednesday, our KIPP Through College (KTC) team brought together a group of KIPP Denver Collegiate High School juniors and seniors interested in law and a legal education to hear representatives—one student and one staff member—from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law discuss the many rewards and challenges of making it to and through law school.
Randy Wagner, Administrative Director for Strategic Initiatives at DU Law, and Laura Lopez, a third year law student, spoke for an hour about their paths through law school, and the many different careers that a legal education can make possible.
Speaking about the challenge of affording law school, Ms. Lopez encouraged the students to treat the search for scholarships like a job.
“If you apply to 20, 30, 40 places, and only one of them gives you a scholarship—and you think, man, I spent 40 hours—a full work week—applying for scholarships and only got a thousand dollars, well you just made a thousand dollars in a 40-hour workweek,” she said. “That’s how you’ve got to think about these things. Think about it from a work perspective, if that’s what’s going to motivate you.”
Asked about what kind of path students should take in college, Mr. Wagner noted that there are many undergraduate majors that can lead to law school, but that grades and test scores are extremely important.
“Getting into college and getting good grades are super important,” he said. “Standardized tests—like it or not—are very important to law schools. You need to take those very seriously, and spend time preparing for them. Anything you can do for your writing, speaking, and listening skills will be really, really important for preparing for law school.”
KIPPsters also asked the pair about issues like learning how to network, opportunities for minority and LGBTQ work in the legal field, and the best type of internships and jobs to seek out before going to law school.
Students who are interested in law school will have another opportunity to learn more about law school when KTC visits the DU Law campus later this year.