My husband and I have always believed we have the right to choose where our children attend school. So when I noticed my youngest son wasn’t receiving the education he deserved at his public school—and when I noticed that the school was becoming less of a community school—we began to look elsewhere. My son was accepted into KIPP in fifth grade. It was a Friday afternoon when we got the call, and I’m telling you—when I found out, I did a dance right there in the middle of the floor! The dancing stopped, however, when I found out that school started on Monday morning. I immediately raced to Old Navy. My son needed some khakis! The first thing I noticed at RISE Academy was the school culture. All of the teachers were huggers—that was new to me—and they were all so dedicated! I could call or text at any time and get a response. And, how do I put this? There was no yelling. At my son’s previous school, the teachers would yell. At RISE, the students knew the expectations and everyone exuded a calm demeanor. I knew from the start I had found my community school. Now, so many years later, I’m busy. I work full-time and volunteer with parent organizations. Some of what we do is programming. We recently organized a “Bring your Dad to School/Men in Our Lives Day” where over 500 men showed up to support their families across all KIPP New Jersey schools. And, we are currently planning a KIPP New Jersey Parent Business Summit where parents can showcase their profession and become part of a business directory. That way, when you need a plumber, tutor, or investment specialist you can call a KIPP New Jersey parent and support the families within your own network. Parent engagement at schools is crucial not only for our children’s success, but also for our school’s success. Our voices are so important. We are our children’s first teachers. We are the ones who teach our kids their shapes, colors and letters. We are the ones who teach them to tie their shoes and how to become good people. I am most proud of the advocacy work parents have done on behalf of our KIPP New Jersey network. Our biggest success to date—by far—was when we successfully lobbied in Trenton to halt the moratorium on charter schools. I am so proud of how our community has come together.
An original version of this post appeared on KIPP's blog.