Wednesday, January 04, 2012

KIPP Newark- TEAM Schools

I'm on KIPP's board in New York and think our NY schools are phenomenal, but I've also spent a lot of time with the KIPP schools in Newark, led by the incomparable Ryan Hill, which are also exceptional.  Check out their annual report and if you're so inclined, anything you donate before the end of the year online at will be matched (further info below):


Dear Friends,

Please find below links to our 2010-11 TEAM Schools Annual Report and accompanying website and videos.  To give more depth to the report (and save money and trees), we decided to go virtual and interactive this year, so  I hope you'll take a moment to a) see how we are tracking our progress and challenging ourselves on everything from serving the students who need us most to supporting our staff and building a better workplace, and b) watch some videos of the kids and teachers whose hard work achieves these results.


This year, we've also added a new philanthropic feature – the opportunity to donate in two ways:  you can give to help us open our next elementary school in 2012, or give directly to teachers' projects in their classrooms.


You can visit the annual report and complete website by clicking here:                                                                                       


And donate to different classroom projects or support the elementary school by clicking here:


As always, thank you very much for all your support for our students and our schools.




Ryan Hill


Dear Friends and Supporters,


Now is a great time to make a gift to TEAM Schools since its not only that time of year, but it's also going to be doubled (details below). 


I believe all of you received Ryan's email with this year's TEAM Annual Report, but I wanted to send a quick reminder and also share a personal story about putting the report together.  First, reminders/updates:


·         This year, our friends at Asurion have been kind enough to match every donation made online to the annual report up to $50,000!  There are two great ways to give: 


o   Donate - To support the opening of our new elementary schoolTHRIVE Academy, which opens this coming fall, please click here


o   Donate - To support projects that our teachers are fundraising for in their classrooms, please click here and select a classroom project under #2 – "Directly Support a Classroom"


·         If you haven't already had a chance to see the videos about KIPP's Six Questions, I just wanted to quickly highlight two of my favorite videos – Ibi is in second grade at SPARK and has been making incredible progress; and Mia is in 6th grade at Rise and has also made awesome progress.  Great stories. 


·         A few of you said you had trouble downloading the report… really sorry about that.  A copy is attached in case anyone was not able to access it online.


·         And last, a personal story I thought I'd share about two of my favorite parts of developing this year's annual report – interviewing Ahoefa and Chris





My Favorite Part of Working on the Annual Report  – Interviewing Ahoefa and Chris


Each year, as we prepare the annual report, I get the privilege of setting aside my usual day-to-day responsibilities in fundraising and spending some time with our teachers and students, seeking out great stories, quotes and anecdotes.  It's one of the best parts of my job here. 


This year, as soon as that time came around, I immediately went to find a young lady in the 8th grade at TEAM Academy named Ahoefa.  I vividly remembered talking with Ahoefa at a dinner that one of our board members had hosted the previous spring.  What had stayed in my mind about Ahoefa was that, then in 7th grade, she was reading dozens of really tough books a trimester in addition to her heavy workload at TEAM.  She had this incredible deal with her dad.  In order to get him to buy her the latest 'cool' book series that all her friends were talking about, he required that she first read one of the classics, or a challenging adult book, including Robinson Crusoe, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, and many more.  Ahoefa loved reading so much she blew through these books at a pace most adults couldn't keep up with.  And at this dinner, she was conversant in all the details of each book she had read, had remarkable insights into the themes and characters and could barely be pulled away from the conversation when it was time to go. 


We serve the kids who need us most, for sure, as this year's annual report shows in detail.  And on average our kids come in pretty far behind, with academic needs comparable to those you would find in any other school in Newark.  Many of our fifth graders actually enter middle school reading on a Kindergarten or First grade level.  But one of my colleagues reminded me last year that we also play an important role in the lives of kids who are at the top of their class.  As my colleague said, having a place where it is safe, even cool, to be smart and do well, can be a life-changing experience for many kids.  Please take a moment to check out Ahoefa's interview on page 13 of the annual report.  Ahoefa, thank you for sharing your story with me and with all of us.


As the annual report release approached, I also went and sought out an old friend who I've known since he was in 7th grade - Chris, who attends our high school, NCA.  In many ways, Chris's story is the other side of the coin.  Chris is a brilliant, multi-talented guy, don't get me wrong, but top of the class is not really his thing.  As you'll see from Chris's interview, his story is about how he turned things around just as he was on the brink of letting a lot of opportunities pass him by.  While Ahoefa's story is exceptional, Chris's story is probably a bit more typical.  But it exemplifies the heart and soul of what makes this a special place.  Chris, like many teenagers, was a little more focused on being too cool for school, than on reading Shakespeare.  He was kind of happy he wasn't going to get to go on the college tour.  He was thinking about skipping all that SAT prep stuff. 


Then, he says, it kind of hit him all of a sudden.  His teachers had been preaching that 'TEAM and Family' thing all these years.  And here, he started to realize, he seemed to have the power to influence his peers.  A lot.  He wasn't sure why, but he knew if he skipped SAT prep, they would too.  But if he went, and took it seriously, they would probably do that too.  Suddenly, he felt responsible for the future of his classmates.  "I would probably get by in the future whether I went or not, but I wasn't sure they all would.  What if I was responsible for them going to wrong way, having problems in the future…I couldn't handle that."  Most young men in Newark have a lot of odds stacked against them and a lot of peer pressures pushing on them.  Chris maintained his swagger, but used it to ensure he and many of the guys in his class were headed on the path to college. 


Sometimes, no matter how good a teacher is, or a principal or a counselor, there is little we as adults can do to sway teenagers once they have their minds made up.  At TEAM, we invest a lot of time and energy in our schools building a positive peer culture so that, when push comes to shove, the students will lead each other.  Chris, in many ways, exemplifies that hard-to-quantify soul of TEAM Schools.  It's not easy, it's never a quick fix, and it's not a formula.  It's small conversations, repeatedly, along the way, with great role models like his college counselor, Harcourt, that slowly add up to make a big difference.  As Chris said, "Mr. Lucius is almost like a father figure. He doesn't just motivate me to do something, he expects me to get it done. And he holds me to a certain standard, but he makes it known that I should hold myself to that same standard. So I know if I don't do something right I'll think, 'aw I'm going to let Mr. Lucius down.' But now it's like, 'I'm going to let myself down.' So that's how he really flipped the script on me."  


Thanks to Chris for sharing his story.   I hope you'll check it out on page 17 in the report.



Thanks to all of you for all you do to support our schools and over 1,500 hard working students like Chris and Ahoefa. 


Have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year.





Ben Cope



Chief Development Officer

TEAM Charter Schools - A KIPP Region

60 Park Place, Suite 802

Newark, NJ 07102

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