Dulce Negreros, founding School Leader at KIPP Mosaic Academy, tirelessly prepared for her school’s opening this year, and spent countless nights planning everything from the school’s long term vision to coordinating the daily schedule. There was one thing, however, she did not predict: a global pandemic. “We’ve had to be flexible this first year, that’s for sure” Negreros says. “But what did stay true the entire time, and what kept us rooted throughout, was our fundamental belief: to create a school where students feel seen, heard, appreciated, and loved. Mosaic Academy not only helps our students grow academically, but we prepare them with the social-emotional skills they need to be successful in the world. Wherever our students go from here–college, career, armed forces–we want them to feel academically prepared and confident in their capabilities.”
In a year of social distancing, Negreros and her team have prioritized programs that foster community. Every student, for example, is part of a small group that meets every day with an advisor and 10-14 other students. That advisory group will stay together until high school, giving students a touchpoint at school that they know will be a constant during their time here. Additionally, the school frequently seeks student feedback, asking what they would like to see in their community or if they are making meaningful friendships. Teachers can then take that information and be intentional about setting up breakout rooms or activities that bring students together. “That is my number one goal,” Negreros says, “for kids and staff to be happy. Yes, of course I care about academic achievement, but that won’t happen unless students feel safe and supported.”
Physical Education teacher Evelyn Guzman believes that the school’s community-building efforts have made a tremendous impact on the culture. “Honestly, KIPP Mosaic is like a family. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. Everyone is accepted for who they are, and everyone feels like they belong,” Guzman says. “You feel that the moment you walk in the building.”
Mosaic Academy is a small tight-knit community with only 120 students per grade level, and because of its size, no one gets lost in a crowd. “We know every student’s name,” Negreros says, “and when they propose an idea, their voices are heard.” Recently, for example, students were asked to compile a list of their interests, and based on that information, the school created 12 clubs for students to choose from, including yearbook, speech and debate, robotics, and running. These clubs will continue to evolve every year to respond to students’ interests. Additionally, Mosaic students will soon have the opportunity to participate in sports or dance teams. Those programs will launch in the 2021-2022 school year.
Even in a close community, middle school can be a challenging time for a student. But every challenge is an opportunity, and when a conflict arises, Mosaic students learn productive means of resolution. Instead of punitive measures like detentions and suspensions, restorative conversations hold students accountable, “but in a thoughtful way,” Negreros says, “where they are able to name how they’re feeling, communicate to one another to build understanding, and rebuild trust and relationships.”
Educators at KIPP Mosaic focus on college and career readiness for all students, and strive to create exemplary problem solvers, critical thinkers, and accomplished communicators.
“We want our students to be able to walk into any space knowing they have the necessary skills to succeed,” Negreros says. “And we want our students to know they are worthy and belong in those spaces just as much as anyone else.”
KIPP Mosaic Academy, founded in 2020, currently educates students in grades five through seven. It is one half of KIPP Texas Houston’s next 1:1 (one primary school to one secondary school) feeder pattern, and it provides a path for our KIPPsters who, once fully grown, will begin their journey in pre-K3 and continue through 12th grade, attending only two schools on one campus.
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