April 2, 2019

KIPPsters for Life: Former students reflect on returning to support KIPP’s mission

As a middle school student, Jennifer built lifelong connections that turned into trusted mentors to help her along the way..
As a middle school student, Jennifer built lifelong connections that turned into trusted mentors to help her along the way..

Conversations with KIPP Texas alumni making an impact across the state [Houston & San Antonio Edition]

One of the most inspiring things about KIPP are the stories from alumni — young people who have climbed the mountain to and through college and now find themselves leading change in their own communities. While there are many career paths they could have chosen, some follow the journey back to KIPP to make an impact day to day. Below, we highlight two KIPP alumni who currently work in Houston and San Antonio behind the scenes on the School Support Partners (SSP) team for KIPP Texas Public Schools. These young leaders are paving the way to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our KIPPsters across the state.

Gilbert Ramirez Cruz

KIPP Region and School: KIPP Academy Middle School 2000-2004
College(s) attended: University of Houston and American InterContinental University (Houston Campus)
Current Role: Operations, Campus Business Manager

Gilbert is a KIPP Houston alumnus who found his calling by helping our schools be their best. While in high school, he assisted the founding team at KIPP SHINE Primary in 2004 lending a hand wherever he could to help prepare the school it open its doors – including assembling furniture for classrooms and unpacking books for the library. In high school, Gilbert accepted into the renowned Houston Scholars program where he attended Strake Jesuit College Preparatory and thrived as a student and athlete.

Early on, Gilbert wanted to pursue a career as a juvenile probation officer. After working a summer internship in the field, he discovered it wasn’t his path. Instead, he decided to return to the work that has always come naturally to him — working with kids and building relationships as a Campus Business Manager for KIPP Sharpstown, a campus with more than 1,400 students. Gilbert wears many hats in his operations role from coaching sports teams, to engaging with parents, to leading camping trips, and more. For Gilbert, this work is about paying it forward and being a role model to younger KIPPsters.

“KIPP to me means motivation. Throughout my life, supportive people at KIPP have encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Sam Lopez, my former principal still calls me and we meet for lunch regularly. Mr. Lopez even came to my wedding! I see that he still cares. I am currently studying for the GMAT and want to earn a Masters degree some day. KIPP always pushed me to grow and this is what’s next for me,” said Cruz.

Gilbert and his wife pose with his former principal Mr. Sam Lopez at their wedding.


Gilbert says the values, work ethic, and drive he’s developed as an adult came from two places: his mother and KIPP.


Jennifer Martinez

KIPP Region: KIPP San Antonio
College(s) attended: Trinity University
Current Role: Advancement, Development Manager

Jennifer attended KIPP Aspire Academy from fifth through eighth grade where she brought her curiosity and intelligence to every classroom she entered. From there, Jennifer’s academic career continued to flourish. Her hard work helped her earn admission and a full scholarship to TMI Episcopal, one of the most competitive high schools in San Antonio. After graduating from Trinity University Jennifer decided to make in a career in education by learning everything she could about the college application process while working as a college advisor in local high schools with the San Antonio Education Partnership, a local non profit. In 2018, she returned as Development Manager for KIPP Texas- San Antonio where she helps raise funds which go towards opening more schools and spreading the mission of KIPP. Whatever role she has, Jennifer continues to have a passion for helping students get to college and continue to have the opportunity to lead choice filled lives.

“Having KIPP in San Antonio has opened the doors to so many other schools. Now we have different networks that are helping give students access to more opportunities. It’s a testament to how KIPP has influenced and impacted kids’ lives — obviously something is working. I was helped a lot through the KIPP Through College Program, the moment I graduated high school and started at Trinity, I wanted to influence a kid how I was helped. Being able to walk into schools and work with students one on one, I see a little bit of myself and I love that,” said Martinez.

As a middle school student, Jennifer built lifelong connections with teachers that turned into trusted mentors to help her along the way.
Jennifer says KIPP San Antonio gave her the tools she needed to succeed at Trinity University.