A school day at KIPP STAR College Prep Charter School is longer than a typical workday. Students arrive at 7:25 a.m. and attend class until 5 p.m., a schedule that even adults would find exhausting. Students also attend class every other Saturday and for three weeks in the summer.
But KIPPsters, as students are called, are dedicated—some even commute from as far away as Staten Island and they are “on time every day,” said Principal Amber Williams. The daily attendance level—98 percent—is just as impressive.
The rigorous schedule has a goal, though, and that is to prepare students for top-quality high schools and colleges. KIPP STAR’s 5th to 8th graders start the day by working on thinking and problem-solving skills. They take math, reading, writing and art enrichment classes, as well as a resiliency class, where students learn to tackle life skills like working in teams and conflict resolution.
“We have a 10-hour day and we have high expectations, but it’s been very smooth in terms of acclimating students to our culture,” Williams said.
Quyahni Lewis’ daughter is a 7th grader at KIPP STAR. While the school’s long day was not a problem, transitioning from a small school setting with only eight students per class to KIPP STAR’s 25 students per class was difficult. But Lewis thinks the school has had a good influence on her daughter. She is “less likely to get in trouble than when she first got there,” Lewis said.
KIPP STAR keeps a close eye on student progress. Weekly assessments help identify students who need tutoring. A social worker is also on hand to help with personal problems, and teachers are available by cell phone in case students have questions after hours.
“They definitely try to include parents in how they teach and how they discipline the students,” Lewis said. “They’re in constant communication with me by email or phone.”
The school also tries to include parents in extracurricular events. Every year, KIPP STAR hosts a welcome barbecue for incoming 5th grade families. Other events include Heritage Month in October and Harvest Feast in November, when the entire school eats Thanksgiving dinner together. Students also participate in after-school activities, like tap dancing, flag football and basketball.
Williams, who helped found KIPP STAR in 2003, is a Teach for America graduate. She was originally a 6th grade reading teacher, became an assistant principal in 2006 and started working as principal last year. While leading the school can be challenging, Williams finds the job very rewarding.
“I met children who were 10-years-old and now they’re halfway through high school,” Williams said. “The most rewarding part is to watch children grow—not just through middle school but through high school and college.”
KIPP STAR’s extensive support program follows students as they advance. Students are encouraged to keep in touch with their school through the “KIPP to College” program. KIPP to College staff even visit students in their new schools, although they usually rely on technology—email, text-messaging and instant messaging—to communicate with alumni.
So far, KIPP STAR has only had two classes of alumni, but a sister school, KIPP Academy, has many older alumni who still keep in touch.
“KIPP in the Bronx has students who are in college and still take advantage of it,” said Williams, referring to KIPP’s many services, including summer internships and tutoring. “There’s a saying at KIPP that once you start KIPP, KIPP never leaves you.”
KIPP STAR College Prep Charter School
433 W. 123rd St.
New York, N.Y. 10027
Amber Williams, Principal
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