To truly embody what it means to be a KIPP alum, I believe you must fight to amplify the voices in our communities. That’s why, when the KIPP Foundation asked me to participate in creating the National KIPP Alumni Network, I jumped at the chance.
I couldn’t be prouder to see my ideas come to life this month when KIPP announced the launch of the first of-its-kind National Alumni Network, focused on career advancement, entrepreneurship, networking, and mental health services for more than 30,000 alumni like me.
By 2025, these programs are expected to reach 80,000 young people across the country. This is a network that has been created by and is run by KIPP alumni so we can help lift each other in career and life.
KIPP Metro Atlanta schools helped shape me into the well-rounded individual that I am today. I wear being a KIPP alum as a badge of honor and I am proud to be a voice for my fellow alumni in the KIPP Metro Atlanta Region.
I was part of a team of 12 alumni design fellows who came together to develop ideas for the network. It was amazing to get together with fellow alumni around the nation, only to see that we had so much in common too.
We also used data to build the network. In a survey of close to 5,000 alumni, 75% ranked personal finance resources, more connections to successful people in their fields, and turning entrepreneurial ideas into businesses, as the types of support they needed the most. Alumni also expressed a need for mental health resources to support them through their journey. And more than half of respondents (51%) said they would like to mentor another student at KIPP, which speaks volumes about my fellow KIPP alumni and their willingness to give back to their communities.
The data only validated what I had seen in my circle of friends. I had KIPP alumni friends who, no matter what college they went to or how hard they tried to look for a job, lacked connections or business contacts to really get the job they wanted. This network will create a business directory of KIPP alumni so we can lift each other up in career and open the doors to new opportunities. Regional associations and career affinity groups will also help all of us stay connected. I’m excited that this will not only help pave my own path to success but will play a pivotal role in the life of every alum.
With my experience in KIPP schools spanning over a decade, I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch my peers grow alongside me and follow diverse career paths and life journeys. Using that knowledge, I’ve worked to build the KIPP Metro Atlanta Alumni Association by connecting and encouraging our alumni to give back to our village.
It’s all about supporting alumni where they are, so KIPP joined forces with YUPRO, an award-winning placement and coaching organization specializing in historically underrepresented talent, to create a pilot program focused on supporting KIPP alumni who do not have a college degree with coaching and job placement.
When you are a first-generation college graduate, [pullquote position="left"]you may not have anyone at home who can help you with your resume or give you interview skills. So part of the suite of programs for the network is a partnership with Braven. KIPP alumni this summer attended the Braven Career Booster Program, a two-week virtual career accelerating bootcamp for recent college graduates. It covered topics including building your LinkedIn profile, interviewing for jobs, networking, and more.
The network is also focusing on our well-being. Starting this month, KIPP has partnered with AYANA Mental Health to provide free mental health counseling services for alumni. This comes at a time when many alumni, who are predominantly African American and Latinx, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and experienced trauma from the recent shootings of Black men and women nationwide. Asking for help is never easy—but this program will make it much more accessible.
I am truly happy to see these programs come to life and know that I had a hand in creating this network so my fellow alumni can stay connected for life and help each other in the path to success.
Cameron Franklin is an alum of KIPP Metro Atlanta. He has teamed with his alma mater to build the KIPP Foundation's National Alumni Network.