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KIPP Reach Academy Students reflect on their experience at the collage prep school

From left to right, Seondre Carolina, Sung-Kook Guevara, Anthony Lay. Photo by Stacy Martin
By Stacy Martin


KIPP Reach Academy has taken the word “reach” quite literally in recent years. Although it is a middle school, it is now reaching far beyond its grade levels t help students attain scholarships to private schools, boarding schools, and eventually college.

So KIPP’s staff promotes its enthusiastic, high-achieving students to prestigious private schools, boarding schools, and later colleges. The receiving schools know they are getting highly-committed students who know how to succeed academically.

He gathered four soft-spoken, polite students and graduates to interview with The City Sentinel. Their stories say more than any brochure ever could.

“I wanted to be a rapper,” said Annette Oleru, 18, 2008 graduate, before she came to KIPP Reach Academy middle school.

“But at first, (the adjustment) was hard for me,” she said. “I came from Longfellow Elementary. It was a fun school.

Her fourth grade Longfellow Elementary school teacher promised that if anyone scored a 50 (which was failing) or more on the state test, she would take them to a pizza party. “I was the only one who scored a 50, so I got to go.

“Before I came to Kipp, I’d never passed a test. But when I got here in the 5th grade, I still thought I was smart.

When she arrived at KIP she found KIPP’s passing grade was 70 or above. She realized she’d never passed a test.

“Upon leaving KIPP I’ve never scored less than advanced on a state test, the shy 18-year-old said with a disarming smile.

At KIPP she was never satisfied with anything less than perfection, but she occasionally she missed one or two questions on state tests. She still remembers them with a little frustration, but it hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm.

“My drive to succeed is to change things for my family,” she said. “My grandmother worked really hard to raise me, so one day I want to be able to take care of her when I get my first job,” she said.

After graduating from KIPP in 2008, she was awarded a $43,000 scholarship to St. George’s, a prestigious boarding school in Newport, RI. One notable St. George’s alumna is: George Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush.

She is now a senior planning to begin her college search to lead to a career as a physician.

I’m looking at colleges now, researching, making my final list, she said. “I want to go to Emory in Atlanta, Ga., or Duke in North Carolina” she said.

Sung Kook Guervara, 14, is graduating from KIPP Reach Academy middle school and will attend St. George’s in Rhode Island on a $50,000 scholarship

His favorite subject is math. His mother encouraged him when he was a very young boy to pursue his dream, which was to become a stock broker.

“My mother wanted it to be my decision to come to KIPP,” he said. “She wanted me to decide my future. She put it in my hands.”

Anthony Lay excelled in his final year at KIPP, but decided to stay anther year to become a more competitive candidate for high school and college. Lay, 16, decided on his own to repeat his final year at KIPP to better prepare himself for high school. It is not an uncommon practice and typically raises a student’s achievement scores.

He was accepted on scholarship at boarding school Orme School of Arizona in Myer, AZ.

“KIPP is another opportunity to succeed, to make your dreams come true, said Lay. “ Whether it’s to be a stock broker, an anesthesiologist or an investment banker.”

Lay said he plans to become an investment banker.

In the beginning, it was sometimes it’s a tough sell to engage parents in their KIPP experience, including coming to the school for parent-teacher conferences and other activities, the student said.

“KIPP helps you can convince or parents of what it can do for you. It will get you to where you want to go, said Lay. “I want to go to one of the top business schools. I like Yale.”

Casady had always made Fs on his tests, so he didn’t care much for coming to parent-teacher meetings before her son came to KIPP.

But there, it was different, His teachers were positive about his efforts, his potential. They believed in him.

Others believe in him now, as well. He has been awarded a $13,180 scholarship to Cassidy.

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