Increasing Family and Community Partnerships - KIPP Chicago Public Schools

The Whole Child Review Issue No. 11, February 2023

Increasing Family and Community Partnerships

KDIA Wellness Services  

KIPP Chicago is proud to support the Whole Child Initiative at our sister region, KIPP Detroit. Over four weeks, kindergarten students at KIPP Detroit Imani Academy received a variety of on-site medical services, including hearing and vision screenings, immunizations, dental cleanings, and cavity fillings. 

The Whole Child Initiative is designed to remove barriers to access for families to promote student success. By offering medical services on-site, we remove the barrier of transportation, avoid interruptions to parents’ work schedules, and demonstrate that we are true partners in the well-being of our students. We are thankful for our partners Portable Smiles, Smiles for Tomorrow, and Unify Detroit, all African-American-owned businesses. 

Common Ground

KIPP Chicago has had the privilege of partnering with the Common Ground Foundation for over ten years. Each year, ten graduates from our middle school campuses are invited to participate in the Dreamers and Believers mentor program, transition to College and Career mentoring program, and the Dreamers and Believers youth summer camp. As program participants, KIPP students can participate in monthly mentoring, community service projects, fine arts activities, and cultural field trips. The program has allowed students to be creative and innovative while forming lifelong bonds with peers and mentors. We are grateful that through this partnership, our students have gleaned lifelong skills in character development, civic engagement, health & wellness, technology, generational wealth, entrepreneurship/career exploration, creative expression, and leadership. 

Daja Brooks knows Common Ground’s impact firsthand. After graduating from DRW College Prep in 2016, Daja enrolled at Xavier University of Louisiana (HBCU) and received her Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology in the Spring of 2020. Daja is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Education at Purdue University while simultaneously teaching 6th-grade ELA at KIPP Ascend Middle School, where she graduated in 2012.

Reflecting on her experience, Daja shared, “Common Ground is a wonderfully meaningful program to be a part of. I enjoy that program participants meet at Kenwood [High School] every 3rd Saturday of the month to engage in sessions ranging from college career readiness, learning an art of your choice, and mentoring from experienced individuals in various fields of study and performance. 

I received an award for having the highest GPA as a senior in high school. I also had the chance, along with nine other students, to attend a private tour of the White House and personally meet Michelle and Barack Obama free of charge. I’ve attended their annual Gala three times, which gave me exposure to many celebrities and affluent individuals. 

Common Ground has instilled in me the importance of networking. They have opened so many doors for me that I thought were closed to students like me. Common Ground places me in rooms with people who have the power to put me in a position to win and who want to see me achieve great things. I truly enjoy the summer camp we do every year at the end of July for all incoming freshmen. It’s a time to connect, bond, and reflect on your earlier years and begin to help mold and inspire the next generation’s journey into high school”.

Penn Foster 

In previous editions of the Whole Child Review, we celebrated our partnership with Penn Foster. Penn Foster is a regionally and nationally accredited program that helps participants to complete a high school diploma (instead of a GED). KIPP Chicago sponsors each cohort of parents, covering enrollment and tuition costs to remove financial barriers. KIPP Chicago staff act as facilitators at each campus and are responsible for coaching and supporting parents through the program towards graduation. They serve as the participants’ first and primary point of contact while pursuing their high school diplomas. Each facilitator demonstrates a commitment to their student’s success, a history of supporting adult education, positive and progressive leadership at their respective campuses, and a passion for helping others achieve their dreams. 

Meet Carla Crespo
KIPP One Academy-ML Case Manager & Assistant Principal, Penn Foster Facilitator 

Rep your school and share how you define yourself beyond your title.

This school year, I have the honor of serving as the 8th Grade Assistant Principal at KIPP One Academy and the Case Manager for Multilingual Learners in 5th-8th grade.  My work in education is deeply personal, as I am the proud daughter of an immigrant family who instilled in me the power of education. I love working with our families at KIPP One Academy beyond academics, whether supporting families with grant applications, translating, or helping them navigate their first year in this country as immigrants. 

In addition to your role at KIPP One Academy, you serve as a Penn Foster Facilitator. You are helping a cohort of five adults earn their high school diplomas. Can you describe a position you’ve held or experiences you’ve had that prepared you for this role?

I have worked with adults since my undergraduate college career through academic tutoring and teaching ESL courses. It’s inspiring to me to support individuals wanting to achieve their dreams and complete a goal that was once paused for various reasons. 

Where have you experienced the most pride, joy, or resilience in leading this cohort within your community?

Seeing the trajectory of students in my cohort from the moment they interviewed for the opportunity to now has been incredibly inspiring. Two students in my cohort are close to completing the program and graduating in 2023 with their high school diplomas! 

What is one thing you’d like readers to know about our community?

Our community is incredibly resilient, and our KIPP parents are the best. At KIPP One Academy, our families are present from the moment they sign the Commitment to Excellence to the moment their children graduate 8th grade. Their partnership is so important in the success of their KIPPsters, and I hope we can continue to bring new opportunities to our KIPP adults in the future. “They buried us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” – Dinos Christianopoulos

Meet Marlene Roldan
Penn Foster Student

Tell us what you do AND how you define yourself beyond your work or title.

I am a mother of 5, a wife, and a daughter. I define myself as a busy mom who loves creativity and family and always tries to be a better individual at whatever needs my attention. I’m striving to teach my children that anything in life is possible if you put all your hard work and effort into whatever it is. I sometimes think that I tend to take on too many tasks, but I feel that those are opportunities that present themself for me to build my strengths in my life/path. I also feel that, at the same time, I show my children that there is always something going on in life that needs to be focused on and that no matter what, we must persevere. I don’t like sitting and waiting for things to happen; I’ve always been a go-getter. I would like my kids to learn these skills from me. I want to help make them strong-minded and eager to learn, reach their dreams and goals, and make good decisions. I consider myself an outgoing and resourceful individual who likes to help others in need. 

Please share your motivation for earning your high school diploma.

Getting my high school diploma has been a long-life goal and dream of mine. My motivations for earning my diploma were to further my education, better career opportunities, be financially stable to provide for and sustain my family, and be a role model to my children and my community. I have always been passionate about school and education; I love learning. 

Please share with us how earning your diploma impacts your life. What changes do you anticipate? 

Earning my diploma might seem like something very simple to many; however, to me, earning my high school diploma is everything. It will be the beginning of a new transition to further my education. Although I know that life isn’t easy and that obstacles tend to arise, I aim to overcome obstacles with positive thinking and persistence. Earning my high school diploma will impact my family positively in many different aspects. Not only will I be able to continue my education by attending college, but I will also be able to prove to my kids that giving up is not the key and that we must always continue to reach for what we want in life. Even as I say these words, I feel so content knowing that I’m on my way to making this happen. I am indeed grateful for Penn Foster. By doing this, I will continue to be a mother my children can look up to. My goal is for my children to learn that education is essential and that college helps to provide career opportunities.

Where have you experienced your most pride, joy, or resilience in yourself and being a part of this program?

I have experienced joy just being part of the program. It has been a humbling experience to have been selected as a candidate to go “to and through” the program. It hasn’t been easy trying to juggle work, family life, and school; however, it has been an opportunity of learning time management. It has been exciting to see how well I’m coming along. 

What is one thing you’d like readers to know about our community?

Our community is beautiful. We make our community what it is. If we spread love, unity, and respect, we will continue building a strong and beautiful community with togetherness and strength.


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