Strategies for Student Success 2015 - Page 24

en. But I was one of those kids who pretty much jumped as high as the bar you set for me. A lot of kids are like that.” KIPP generates continual excitement for college through the school’s programming and culture, effectively turning kids into vehicles for communicating college enthusiasm, said Ms. Howarth. Middle school days are filled with discussion of degree programs, course offerings, and college life. It is always made clear to students exactly what options are possible with specific grade-point averages and test scores. Concrete planning begins while students are in middle school at KIPP Academy. A Parent Involvement Committee meets monthly, providing information on topics ranging from supporting students’ coursework to saving for college and establishing 529 savings plans. The meetings include fellowship time for snacks with teachers and other families. And once students complete their work at KIPP Academy, they still have access to incredible college preparation resources. A program called KIPP Through College (KTC) guides families through high school planning, college applications, and financial aid. Emily Blatter, KTC director, said KIPP doesn’t think in terms of working to engage parents in college planning. In fact, it’s just the opposite. “It’s not that we have to get parents to be a part of the process. They’re already a fundamental part,” said Ms. Blatter. “They want their kids to go to the best colleges. They want them to have life-changing opportunities. They don’t need to be convinced of that at all.” 23 Through KTC, KIPP Academy alumni are helped to overcome the hurdles. Workshops are hosted for students and families, and relationships started at KIPP Academy are maintained for years after. Kids get help identifying college options, including schools that might be more selective or farther from home than students might aim for on their own. Applying for the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program as well as other sources of financial aid is complex, requiring significant documentation. “We want parents to get in the know as much as their students are. We don’t want students to be the only ones carrying the knowledge, because at the end of the day, the parent will make the decision,” Ms. Blatter said. “It’s really about information, direction, and demystifying.” Ms. Payne and her daughter Lexi have taken full advantage of KTC’s resources in the years after Lexi finished her time at KIPP Academy. Lexi, a talented visual artist and honors student, has applied to schools including the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her family is currently going through the process of figuring out financing with scholarships and grants. While the family has gone through the application process before with an older sibling, things are different now. Everything is online, for one thing, and there are many deadlines and details to be aware of. KTC utilizes the same open channels of communication in play at KIPP Academy. Program staff help families tackle barriers large and small, from making use of a KTC printer to coordinating transportation for campus tours. Between the workshops, phone calls, meetings, and mailings, Ms. Payne said KIPP families have an advantage. “These folks are thoroughly knowledgeable about what to do, when to apply. Had we not had them, I am positive we would have missed imperative deadlines,” said Ms. Payne. “I wish this were available to all students.”