Ubuntu is not commonly included in orientation at most schools, nor is it part of every day conversation in most English-speaking circles, but at (Knowledge is Power Program (aka KIPP: Academy Charlotte), this is their mantra. Ubuntu is an African word meaning, “I am who I am because of who WE all are.” There’s no denying we are intertwined. SHARE Charlotte is honored to be a partner with KIPP: Academy Charlotte, a free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public school serving almost more than 800 students in Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 4th-8th grades. KIPP: Academy Charlotte serves communities traditionally underserved and marginalized in education.
Iyana Richardson, Senior at Howard University, is one of hundreds of KIPPsters who KIPP: Academy Charlotte prepared for and supported through college when this was initially not part of their future plans.
Iyana explained to me that,”Before attending KIPP: Academy Charlotte in 2007, I was enrolled in public Title 1 schools within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School systems. At that time, I did not fully understand the purpose and the value of education. I knew that I would always graduate high school, but my only plan post high school graduation was to get a simple job and work. This was the only path that I saw for myself because this was the best lifestyle that I was exposed to before attending KIPP: Academy Charlotte.”
After beginning KIPP: Academy Charlotte as a middle schooler, Iyana has had support the entire time after she left the middle school, throughout high school and through college. This is thanks to the KIPP Through College Program, where counselors follow students throughout their academic careers to ensure correct placement, rigor, financial aid options and assist as needed.
The sense of community and familial support is a pillar of KIPP: Academy Charlotte.
“We learned how to be a strong family by holding each other and ourselves accountable,” Iyana reminisced. “And once we had that strong sense of connectedness and being a proud pride together, we then learned how to be extraordinary, never ordinary individuals who always go above and beyond the expectations so we can be the change in the world that we wish to see. Every morning, school officials began with a call and response tradition between the school leader and the KIPPsters as follows:
School Leader: ‘I am who I am…’
KIPPsters: ‘..because of what we all are.’
SL: ‘If I am strong…’
K: ‘...we are stronger.’
SL: ‘But if I am weak…’
K: ‘...we are weaker.’
These are examples of the ideals that KIPP: Academy Charlotte and Share Charlotte both support. We hope this week, after a time with family and friends, a time of giving thanks, that you’ll consider supporting the efforts KIPP: Academy Charlotte is making to impact the lives of students like Iyana, first-generation college students, who sometimes fall through the cracks. KIPP: Academy Charlotte bridges the crevices, giving students the power, information, support and resources to dream big and to see those dreams come to fruition.
Ubuntu, Charlotteans, Ubuntu!
If you’re interested in encouraging Iyana, directly, she’d love to hear from you before she graduates this Spring. You can connect with her at: firstname.lastname@example.org and you can volunteer to support other students like her at KIPP: Academy Charlotte.