By Aniaya Reed
KIPP: Endeavor Academy, a tuition-free, open-enrollment public school, opened its doors in Kansas City in 2007 as a fifth grade school. After five years, KIPP expanded into a 5-8th grade middle school. From there, they blossomed into a K-8th grade school. Now, KIPP has an elementary, middle and high school where students are finding their passions, while having the support of staff and faculty.
Head principal Josh Swartzlander is in his 13th year at KIPP schools, which are located in the historic 18th and Vine District.
“KIPP is an abbreviation for ‘Knowledge is Power Program,’ KIPP is also a national charter network with several hundred schools,” Swartzlander said. “It originated in Houston in the 1990’s. We have pre-k through 10th grade, and a full 9-12 school.”
KIPP was founded in 1994 by Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin in Houston, Texas. They were two Teach for America members, and opened two middle schools in Houston and New York City. Both schools were some of the highest performing schools in their communities by 1999.
“We have three values: homeplace, instilling the students’ identity at school; grow, we want students to grow academically and socially; launch, we want students to launch their career from our high school,” Swartzlander said.
Amanda McRae, the assistant principal, is in her 11th year of being with KIPP schools.
“We have a strong team and family culture,’ McRae said. “Because we are a small school, we know all of the students’ names, siblings, and families. We know things that principals and assistant principals wouldn’t know in a larger school setting. It’s really great to be close with the students. This benefits them because they know us and we know them.”
KIPP was founded based on trust between the staff and families. The administrators know that developing trust is important for students to feel comfortable and succeed in and out of the classroom.
“One big thing that differentiates us as a charter school is that we don’t report to the [Kansas City Public Schools] board,” Swartzlander said. “Being a small association allows us to be more nimble, and be there for the families. We are highly focused on team and family, and we value strong relationships between students, teachers and families.”
Being in a diverse city like Kansas City means that schools must recognize the authenticity and originality of the students they encounter.
“We want to make sure they are getting the academic rigor they need, and we want them to be supported socially, emotionally and culturally,” Swartzlander said. “We want them to feel at home.”
Along with their strong relationship between families and faculty, KIPP also supports athletics and other extracurricular activities.
“We sent an athlete to state track and field,” Swartzlander said. “We have a strong athletic department. We have a full range of sports: cross country, track and field, football, volleyball and others. We want our students to thrive in whatever they desire.”
KIPP Forward in Kansas City prepares and supports students to and through all pathways after high school including college/university, professions, and beyond.
“Our KIPP Forward program reaches out to our alumni and makes sure they are reaching their goals as a person career wise,” Swartzlander said. “It offers any support that might be needed, and is truly a resource for students and families.”
McRae has seen how KIPP Forward operates and shared her own experience.
“I have also had the opportunity to see how the KIPP Forward team supports students in high school,” McRae explained. “It provides opportunities and experiences to explore career paths, internships and trips.”
KIPP is located at 2700 E. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo. For more information on KIPP: Endeavor Academy, visit their website at www.kippendeavor.org.