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. 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.”