Happy Veterans Day to our soldiers, both past and present! KIPP Texas Public Schools proudly recognizes all servicemen and women. We owe you our thanks. We owe you our freedom.
We are honored to feature several of our KIPP veterans from across all four regions. Amy, Rene, Sheila and Tawanda, thank you for the sacrifices you have made for our freedom. We salute you!
Name: Rene Alonso
KIPP Role: KIPP Somos Collegiate, San Antonio, first year at KIPP
Military Position: Navy Corpsman, Radiation Health, served five years
“I was in my high school library watching the news when the second plane hit. And that moment just reaffirmed my commitment: I wanted to join the military, become a medic, and do some good in the world. The moment I got my diploma I was on a plane to boot camp. I ended up choosing to become a Navy Corpsman, specializing in Radiation Health, and dealt with issues around radiation exposure and emergency response aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
Looking back at it now, I realize the most important lesson I learned in the military had nothing to do with my specialty. I learned that the world is a big place. You know how after 9/11, the President said, “you’re either with us or against us?” It’s way more complicated than that. There are so many cultures out there, so many belief systems, so many languages. Nothing is ever black or white. It’s an easy narrative for the government or media to say that a country or opposing ideology is the enemy, but the easy narrative isn’t always the true narrative. If you want to understand yourself or your place in the world, you have to learn about other people first.”
Name: Sheila Hopkins
KIPP Role: KIPP Sunnyside High School, Houston, Founding Dance Director and Fine Arts Department Chair, eighth year at KIPP
Military Position: Sergeant, Army Reserves
“The military provides an opportunity to connect with extraordinary people and see the world, and it’s an avenue for economic advancement: the medical coverage, the free college tuition, the VA home loans–those are powerful benefits that create generational wealth and can alter the trajectory of an entire family.”
Name: Tawanda Dabney
KIPP Role: KIPP Pleasant Grove Primary, Dallas, Reading and Math Interventionist for Kindergarten – fourth grade (second year at KIPP)
Military Position: Navy Hospital Corpsman, Petty Officer 2nd Class; Airforce Medical Tech Sergeant (eight years served)
“When my mom got hurt, I had to leave college to take care of my little brothers and sisters. So I was back at home, and one day, my best friend and I decided to take a walk, and for whatever reason we took the shortcut instead of going the long way like we usually did. He was shot and killed right in front of me. Life in the projects of Chicago. Wrong place at the wrong time. And from that moment, I knew I had to get out. I did not want that to happen to me. I needed a direction. So I went and talked to the military recruiter. My mother didn’t believe that I had joined until the day I left for the United States Navy.
Maybe my mom getting hurt was a blessing in disguise, because in the military, I learned to be responsible and accountable for my actions, and I learned to take pride in everything I do: from shining my shoes to making sure that bed is so tight you can bounce a quarter off of it. You gotta take pride in everything in the biggest accomplishments but also the small steps that get you there. That’s a lesson I learned, and it’s a lesson I try to impart to my students.”
Name: Amy Montoya
KIPP Role: KIPP Obras, Austin, 4th Grade Math (6 years at KIPP)
Military Position: Army Cryptologic Analyst, Spanish Linguist 2010-2013, Pashto linguist 2013-2015, Pasto Military Language Instructor at the Defense Language Institute
“As a Spanish linguist, I served as liaison between the US and Columbian militaries during Operation Jacque, and after Ingrid Betancourt and the other high level hostages were rescued, the Army told me it was time to move on and learn another language. So, I learned Pashto and worked as a translator for Operation Enduring Freedom supporting Afghanistan missions. Working the Afghanistan mission was challenging and rewarding, but much different than my work in South America. In Colombia, we knew the people and we knew who we were looking for. Everything was clear cut. In Afghanistan, the objectives were less clear. So after two years, I lept at the offer to teach Pashto at the Defense Language Institute.
I loved getting to know my students there. That 18-year-old who had never left Ohio? Why did he want to learn Pashto? Well, he told me, because his mom had diabetes and without Tricare his family would have gone bankrupt. Almost every student had a story like that: the school was full of incredibly smart individuals who needed the military to get out of a tough situation or escape their poor town, city, or reservation. I cared about my students so much, and I loved teaching: I just wanted to help teach a skill that could help give students a path to the middle class. When my time in the military ended and I chose to return to Austin, my passion for education and equity led me to KIPP, and I’ve been here ever since.”