This Black History Month KIPP Texas wants to acknowledge the importance our educators play in making a difference in the lives of our KIPPsters.
You may remember this video from last year featuring Jeremy Harris, Assistant Principal of Instruction & Literacy at KIPP Truth Academy, and a group of students who participated in the Cultivate Mentorship Program he founded on campus.
We’re happy to report that the goal to expand the program to include at least 30 students has been accomplished. We spoke with Mr. Harris, to get an update on the program and learn about what Black History Month means to him.
What was the mentorship program started for, when was it founded, and is there a reason why that name was selected?
Cultivate was founded in 2021 as an organization aimed to help elementary boys (1st – 4th grade) succeed academically, behaviorally, and emotionally with the help of 8th grade mentors. The name Cultivate is derived from the act of planting and seed and watching it grow – which is what we believe we are doing when mentoring others.
How many students did the program start with and how many currently participate?
The program started with 25 students and five mentors. The program has since increased to 44 students and 13 mentors.
Last year it was a boys only group but now there are girls, right? Can you share more about this change and what it means for the program?
That is correct, last year it was boys only but this year we are servicing both boys and girls. There were multiple requests from our community to expand the program last year. While meeting with our elementary School Leader, DeMesha Webster, we discussed what it would take to actually make the expansion happen. Even though it was more work, I can truly say it was worth it. Not only are the girls in our elementary excited to get a mentor, but it also boosted the confidence of our lady mentors. It was great to see how many young ladies were eager to apply to become a mentor when the opportunity presented itself.
What changes have you seen at your school since the program started?
Since the program started, we have seen a decrease in behavioral incidents with the mentees. In our middle school, you will see more students wanting to give back to their community and help others.
What has been your favorite part of the program?
My favorite part of the program is watching the transformation of the mentors as they begin to take ownership of the program while showing how much they care about mentees and each other.
This Black History Month, what do you want to share with the KIPP Texas community?
Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those that prepare for it today.” Growing up in rural Arkansas, my history, culture, values, and the importance of education were instilled in me from a young age. Not only did I learn about the importance of the students known as the ”Little Rock Nine,” I saw the pride in my Grandmother’s eyes as she told me stories about growing up in the segregated South while attending an all-black school. Both ways of life fostered hope and a sense of persisting with a purpose, much like KIPP Texas does for thousands of KIPPsters each day. Being blessed with this gift to educate and empower our youth to change their community for the good, is an honor that we should not take lightly. I charge you to take the steps necessary to follow your purpose and help someone else discover and nurture theirs. I’ll leave you with this quote from Jesse Owens: “Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.”