Kelsey is a second year Plan II / Education major. She is originally from Moraga, California, but has loved the city of Austin and the opportunities it has presented to her over the past two years. Kelsey became interested in the PII/KIPP partnership after taking Professor Walker’s Civic Viewpoints seminar class during which the topic of education and social justice were often discussed. Inspired by the Civic Viewpoints and the PII/KIPP classes, Kelsey has switched majors multiple times but has ultimately decided on a pre-law track. Kelsey hopes to study public interest/education law in the future, with the hopes of becoming an advocate for education equality.
At KACP, Kelsey and her mentee Clarissa have spent Friday afternoons bonding over a love of Mancala and other board games. Clarissa is an amazing 5th grader who, although very shy, has a great sense of humor and a happy smile. Kelsey is happy to know that although Clarissa is shy and habitually quiet in her classes, that KIPP will not just pass her along without making sure she is learning the material. Without a community like KIPP supporting her, who knows where Clarissa, probably the first in her family to think about college, would end up? PII/KIPP is changing lives, both for the mentees and the mentors.
Elizabeth Barnes is a second-year student in Plan II and the English Honors Program. Before joining the Plan II/KIPP partnership, she mentored younger students through the math society Mu Alpha Theta, the nonprofit Project Transformation, and her high school’s “Senior Buddies” program, which paired seniors with fifth graders. Her particular love of reading and writing has driven her conviction that all children should be able to read not only proficiently but also gladly.
Elizabeth has lived in Dallas her whole life, attended the Lamplighter School from second through fourth grade, and spent middle and high school at the Episcopal School of Dallas. She is forever grateful to the phenomenal teachers who were responsible for the caliber of her education and her subsequent enrollment in Plan II, which she loves. Once Elizabeth broke the home mailbox of her history teacher and math teacher, who are married, during a high school Trick-or-Treat run gone horribly awry. Sixty seconds of panic later she fixed it. Her teachers are still amused.
Iman Berrahou is a junior Plan II Microbiology major from Austin, TX. She became interested in the Plan II/KIPP partnership because it provides a unique opportunity to connect with and positively influence a KIPPster, while simultaneously learning about the social inequalities and reform movements in the American education system. Her experience in high school at a magnet school housed on the same campus as a low-performing public school opened her eyes to these inequalities and so learning more about them through the P2K partnership sounded right up her alley.
Her mentee, Anahy, is an amazingly awesome and incredible fifth grader at KIPP Austin College Prep. Together, Anahy and Iman enjoy playing board games, tossing a Frisbee on the KIPP campus, and talking about anything at all.
Christopher Cacciatore is a third year Plan II and Dean Scholar's Biochemistry major. When not attending to classwork, he spends a majority of his time working at the Office of the Attorney General or conducting research in a biochemistry laboratory. Every Friday afternoon, however, Chris has been blessed with the opportunity to mentor a small kid with a big heart named Victor. Victor and Chris enjoy drawing pictures together, talking about animals, and playing soccer. When not playing during recess, Chris helps Victor with his favorite subjects: math and science. Mentoring Victor has helped Chris realize the dire need for education reform, and his own desire to contribute toward the cause. While the mentorship has sparked interest in dissecting the societal problems that form educational inequity, Chris is most thankful for the friendship with Victor that will undoubtedly last for many years to come.
Jasmine Castellanos is a Plan II Sophomore who enjoys mentoring, reading, and the outdoors. She is a full time student, an employee of Plan II in the Joynes Reading Room, and a nanny. She spends most of her time studying Physics and hanging out with five year olds. As a prospective French major, Jasmine is eager to become bilingual and wander.
Alexander Fischer is a Plan II Honors/Rhetoric and Writing/Percussion Studies sophomore from The Woodlands, TX. He spends much of his spare time performing; he acts in the Broccoli Project and Spirit of Shakespeare theater troupes and plays percussion in the UT Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, and Percussion Ensemble. After undergraduate work, he hopes to attend law school.
Alexander, who grew up in Wisconsin, attended a public charter school from 2nd to 8th grade. This sparked his initial interest in education reform, and he's found the Plan II/KIPP class eye-opening to a new world of the challenges and potential solutions in education today. Above all, he's thankful for the educational opportunities he's had and enjoys giving back at KACP.
His mentee Kevin is quite energetic and greatly enjoys sports and games--at KACP you can often find the two of them playing a touch football match with one or two of the other mentor/mentee pairs.
Kelsey McKinney is a sophomore majoring simply in plan ii honors. She has an affinity for literature and loves discussing Shel Silverstein with her mentee, Aurora. When she grows up, she wants to write many novels and live in a house with three dogs.
Glen Miglin is a sophomore Plan II/Electrical Engineering student at UT. Although he didn’t know much about education reform before joining the Plan II/KIPP partnership, he has since become quite interested in the issue and enjoys learning about it in class. Glen especially enjoys mentoring his fifth-grade KIPPster, Yusseff, who he visits every Friday morning. They like to eat breakfast together, talk, and of course play some football. Having grown up in a public school environment his entire life, Glen was relatively new to the idea of charter schools, and getting to experience KIPP first-hand is very exciting and insightful for him. Outside of the Plan II/KIPP program, Glen acts in Plan II’s theatre company, The Broccoli Project; sings in one of UT’s a cappella groups, One Note Stand; and plays the cello in the Engineering Chamber Orchestra, EChO. On the side, he does his schoolwork, and hopes to graduate as a Computer Software Engineer. Glen looks forward to the time he gets to spend with Yusseff every week, and aims to continue visiting him for years to come.
Emily Mixon is a second-year Plan II/Anthropology/possibly Geography student. Though her typical week includes everything from riding her horse to working in a physical anthropology lab she can truthfully say that her Friday afternoons with her mentee Victoria are her favorite moments. She has really enjoyed seeing her relationship with Victoria grow over rounds of MASH, Mancala and simple goofy “girl talk” in their first semester together and looks forward to the time to come!
As a graduate of a well-performing Austin public school but with a mother involved in elementary education in under-performing schools, Emily knew before she entered UT that there was a wide discrepancy in the opportunities provided in the local, regional and national education systems. She was unsure of what to do with her desire to learn and do more until she found the KIPP/Plan II partnership at the end of her first year.
Emily loves the fact that the Plan II/KIPP partnership gives students a personal relationship to something that can so often seem an abstract, distant, problem. Emily will tell you honestly that she’s learned as much, if not more, from Victoria than Victoria has learned from her. It is often daunting and discouraging to realize the extent of the brokenness of education in America, but snapshots of KIPP’s solution and Victoria’s path have left Emily with perspective, hope, and a drive to continue to learn and act.
Leeor Mushin is from Houston, and his majors are Plan II and Energy Finance. He hopes to one work in the energy or consulting industry by combining what he has learned from both majors. He comes from a family that has always placed a strong importance on quality education and never giving up on anything. His father is a vascular surgeon, and his mother works with residents at Baylor College of Medicine. Leeor became interested in the Plan II/KIPP partnership after rave reviews from past mentors. Through his experience, he has seen the amazing effects the KIPP method can have on students. His favorite part of the program is the relationship he has developed with his mentee, Paul. From playing football to playing chess to just talking with him, Leeor looks forward to seeing Paul every week not matter what they do. He also enjoys the discussions he has with classmates regarding the various issues the country faces. Through these discussions he has come to understand the both problems and the possibilities with the educational systems.
Talia Noorily is a sophomore majoring in Plan II and Public Health. She is from San Antonio, where she attended Health Careers High School, a magnet school for students interested in health professions. She is still on the pre-med track, but the Plan II Civic Engagement class opened her eyes to a vast range of social justice issues, including healthcare and education. She joined the Plan II/KIPP class as a way to get involved in the Austin community and to learn about education reform. Talia loves visiting KIPP and hanging out with her mentee, Erika, every week! Erika enjoys doing art projects, playing board games, and running around outside, and she hopes to become a doctor some day. Talia is grateful for the opportunity to learn about the education system in the Plan II/KIPP setting. P2K has not only been an eye-opening experience, but it has allowed Talia to make a difference in her mentee’s life.
Being a mentor at KIPP Austin College Prep has been a very valuable experience for me. Most importantly, I’ve gained a friendship with my mentee James. Playing football with James on Friday mornings is always a great start to my day, and I have loved getting to know James over the course of the year. I also feel the experience has opened my eyes to a range of issues that intersect with education, a field that interests me greatly. Visiting KACP – a school overflowing with motivation, discipline, and focus – has really put things in perspective.
I’ve grown up in East Texas (Tyler), and I finished all of my primary and secondary schooling in the Whitehouse Independent School District. Austin is very different from where I grew up, but I have fallen in love with the city and U.T. I am a Plan II major and plan on focusing my academic coursework toward government. I am especially interested in the state of education in the U.S. The Plan II – KIPP partnership has been a great opportunity for me to explore this interest; the program combines a very human element to the academic study of education.
I have also loved getting to know my Krewe (fellow Plan II – KIPP classmates). We’re a motley crew with diverse interests, unique personalities, and varied professional aspirations, all united by an interest in helping a fifth grader and learning about education. Carpools to and from KACP are always fun and even insightful as we talk about our visits and bounce ideas off of one another.
I look forward to getting to know James even more as he progresses at KACP. I’m glad I can be there for him as a friend. It feels good to volunteer as a mentor, and I really value my experience with KIPP.
Austin Rogers is a Plan II/Business Honors/Spanish junior. Upon graduating from UT-Austin, he hopes to attend law school and launch a career in public defense or civil rights advocacy. Austin is co-chair of the BHP Student Ethics Board, Vice President of the ABC Residence Hall Council, and Recruitment Co-Chair for the Plan II Students' Association. His mentee, Omar, is a 5th grader at KIPP Austin College Prep who enjoys playing drums and snacking on Butterfingers. Upon graduating from a 4-year university, Omar hopes to become a policeman.
Christen (Chrissy) Thompson is pursuing majors in Plan II and Spanish, and a minor in Sociology. Her Spanish is a work in progress, but her mentee Diana is very patient with her mistakes and tries not to laugh. Chrissy is an intern with the Public Programs office of the Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, and is excited about studying abroad in Madrid this summer. Mondays are her favorite day of the week because she gets to spend time with her awesome mentees Diana and Angelica at KIPP Austin College Prep, and in the future she hopes to teach in a bilingual setting, once she perfects her Spanish.
Mozhgon Vafaee is a sophomore Plan II/Cell and Molecular Biology double major and a proud Austinite. In contrast to the structured science lectures and laboratories that take up most of Mozhgon’s…life, attending KIPP meetings and spending time with her mentee, Priscila, give her an opportunity to think independently about topics related to education reform and to creatively work toward goals that she has set with Priscila. Mozhgon had joined the Plan II/KIPP partnership with only a modest amount of background knowledge about the degree to which the US public school system requires reform. Much of what made her interested in joining P2K was her own observations of the disparities between academic and AP level classes at her high school. However, while she has learned about new aspects of the public school system that disappoint her, she has also learned more about the amazing power of dedicated teachers that she has witnessed firsthand at KACP every time she visits her mentee. She hopes that education reform will continue to be a hot topic, so that perhaps more and more children will be taught by such devoted teachers that truly will give them the “freedom to shape their futures and positively affect their communities”.
"Edgar Walters is a second-year Plan II and Economics student. He draws inspiration from many sources, but among the most important is his oldest sister, a teacher at the Harlem Village Academy. He also enjoys being an advocate for social justice in his spare time - particularly with Texas StandOut, an activist organization for queer political issues - so education policy is a natural fit for him. Edgar has the distinct honor of mentoring Ricardo Perez, a delightful 5th grader at KIPP Austin College Prep, and the two can most often be found playing Sorry! in a conference room, discussing the latest playground gossip. In addition to social justice issues, Edgar enjoys economics, basketball, making music, physics, Tina Fey, Kevin Durant, and Ryan Gosling."
Clayton Wickham is a 2nd year Plan II and Psychology major. He got involved with KIPP because of his interest in teaching and hi desire to learn more about potential solutions to the educational inequalities in America. The best part of Plan II/KIPP class so far has been the relationship he has developed with his mentee, Bruce. Getting to go hang out with Bruce and talk to him about his life every Friday has been a comfort to Clayton, and he hopes it’s been a comfort to Bruce as well.
Laura Wright studies Neurobiology and generally Plan II-s. In addition, she co-chairs the curriculum committee of the Senate of College Councils, acts and directs with the Broccoli Project theater group, and arranges volunteer events for the Plan II Student's association.
I'm Ben Barrett and I'm currently a sophomore. In addition to Plan II, I amon a Pre-Med track. I was attracted to the Plan II-KIPP Partnership becauseit wasn't your typical service gig where you show up somewhere and leaveafter a few hours. This mentoring relationship offers a unique experience toinfluence a middle school student's life at such a crucial point. I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I have learned from my mentee, Edward,as well. Edward and I usually play soccer or just sit and talk, while working on homework. His excitement and intrigue with college is a reallyrefreshing break each week from rote college life. It is an incrediblyrewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone.
My name is Victoria Cano-Calhoun and I am a third year Plan II/Management Information Systems major. I was born right here in Austin, but grew up in Clear Lake City. I first heard about the Plan II/KIPP Partnership during a presentation in my sophomore philosophy class. I knew that I wanted to be a part of this team as soon as I found out what it was all about! I do a lot of volunteer work with children around Austin, but I had never heard of a program like this one before. Taking this class and being introduced to my mentee Megan has been an unmatched experience. For one thing, my interest in education reform has most certainly been sparked! As a result, I intend for my involvement in this issue to reach far beyond just this class (possible thesis opportunities?). Still, I cherish nothing about my experience with the partnership more than my friendship with Megan. She is an extremely bright, creative, and enthusiastic 11-year-old. As we have come to learn more about each other, our relationship only strengthens, especially because we have so much in common! There are a lot of things to love about this program, and if you are interested in being a part of our team and family, I encourage you to apply!
I have loved working at KIPP and getting to know my mentee, Alondra! We have a great time talking, discussing what is going on at school and at home. We get to laugh together and share our interests with one another. She loves art, so we have spent time drawing and doing crafts. We went to see the bats under Congress bridge with her class, and are planning on baking a cake together with her mom soon. It has been so rewarding watching Alondra open up to me and seeing how being at KIPP has so profoundly influenced her. Seeing it firsthand has given me an avid interest in learning about and becoming a part of helping to change the inequalities present in education.
My name is Ellie Chernosky, and I am from Houston, Texas. My major is Plan II and History. I am so excited to be a part of this amazing Plan II/KIPP partnership. Education has always been something that has interested me; I have volunteered with programs like Community Newstart and served as a tutor at KIPP and know that I love working with kids. I have hopes of one day doing Teach for America, and being a part of this class has opened my eyes even more to the incredible inequalities present within the American public school system. Every child, no matter where they come from, should have the opportunity to learn, but as it is now, the education system is failing millions of America's children. Learning about the inherent flaws in public schools, however, and seeing the KIPP model in action has shown me that there are models working to create a change.
My name is Victoria Edrington and I am a double major in Plan II and Business Honors from Houston. I have always enjoyed working with younger students through tutoring and being a camp counselor, and am excited to be able to continue that involvement in college. I became interested in KIPP after talking to older mentors who have seen the great effects KIPP has on students. I have always seen the importance of a good education and want to help other students have the same opportunities that I have had. I have had a blast with my mentee, Denise, this semester and am excited for many more fun times in the future!
My name is Brianna Guidorzi. I am a second-year Plan II and Women’s and Gender Studies student, but often times I wish I were majoring in the nonexistent program of Education Reform. The topic is as expansive as it is controversial, and it seems as if we never have (or will have) enough time in our two hour class to give justice to any conversation. It is difficult for me to answer the question of when my interest in education reform began, but it is easy to say why. Although I received a good public education, I knew there existed better and worse, and I viewed both of those observations as injustices within the system of public education. I love the KIPP/PII Partnership for the fact that through mentoring it keeps Plan II students close to social issues at hand and leaves them undeniably affected and desiring of significant change. We cannot solve the many issues affecting education in the United States in our classroom, but we can begin to gain understanding of how change is possible.
My name is Brian Gumz and I’m a third year Plan II and English student. In my free time I enjoy acting with the Broccoli Project, watching offbeat films and running. My mentee and I first met through a Boy Scout troop I was helping to lead. Serendipitously, he ended up moving to KIPP Austin College Prep in the same semester that I began mentoring there. With our mutual appreciations for science fiction stories and Ultimate Frisbee, he and I made a great pair from the beginning.
In addition to mentoring, the Plan II/KIPP partnership has also exposed me to the wide and contentious world of education policy. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that not every student has the opportunity to succeed in the current educational climate. It is my belief that finding a remedy to this problem is not only important to America’s future but also fundamental to maintaining some semblance of the American Dream in the present day. Education should be a means to success—and we need to guarantee this opportunity for every child regardless of race, background or social status. The individual mind is our greatest capital and our greatest hope. We must do all that we can to cultivate it.
My name is Jason and I'm a third year Plan II Honors, Economics, and Math major. I hope to go to graduate school and eventually land a job as a professor. Oddly enough, none of my immediate interests are in the realm of mentoring or education reform, yet I applied to this program on a whim my sophomore year. I had felt very disconnected to some of the activities I had enjoyed as a high school student, and with so much of my sophomore year dedicated to academics, I felt it was time to branch out a little. I had thought of this program as a nice change of pace volunteering program for one hour week, yet it really has given me so much more. My mentee's name is Aldo. Aldo is one of the easiest people to talk to; he never runs out of topics to share with me, and he is constantly laughing and smiling. Yet this program is far from just about mentoring. Our class discussions and readings have really opened my eyes to the inequalities that plague our education systems, and I've actually considered writing my thesis on a related topic. As a college student, it seems there are incredible opportunities and experiences everywhere you turn, yet this program really has been a fantastic experience- in rediscovering my passion in working with kids, in exposing me to the unfortunate realities in our education system, and in giving me a chance to interact with my fellow brilliant mentors.
My name is Katherine Kling, and I’m a sophomore from Houston, Texas majoring in Plan II and Anthropology. I first became interested in the Plan II/KIPP partnership as an opportunity to get involved in the Austin community but have since become very interested in education reform. My mentee, Allison, is wonderful! She’s hilarious, insanely full of energy and incredibly sweet. Nine times out of ten you will find me chasing Allison across KIPP’s campus (usually out of breath), but I wouldn’t give up one minute I’ve spent with her or with my classmates. I have already learned so much about education, working with children and about myself—I know, cheesy, but it’s true! I recommend this opportunity to absolutely anyone who’s interested in applying!
My name is Katherine and I'm a second-year Plan II and advertising student from Austin. I was interested in the Plan II-KIPP mentorship program because I had mentored an elementary student during my senior year of high school and I really enjoyed it. My mentee, Claudia, and I have a lot of fun playing cards and walking around the KIPP campus, and she never runs out of things to tell me about. The first day I met her, Claudia told me that the only thing she liked about KIPP was the food. She now admits that she also likes reading and science, and I can already tell that KIPP has had a huge impact on her. While KIPP is really intense, with its nine and a half hour school days and strict rules, it's providing its students with better futures. The Plan II-KIPP mentorship has showed me how lucky I was for a great public education and has made me realize that education reform is in dire need. The program has made me reconsider my future plans, and I now hope to do Teach for America after graduation.
My name is Jenny and I'm a second-year Plan II, Women's & Gender Studies, and English student. I've frequently described myself as a person who "likes having causes," so (naturally) my interest in PII/KIPP arose from concerns over our public education system and earlier kicking/screaming about other education-related issues. My involvement with PII/KIPP has not only provided me with a lively forum for discussing America's flawed education system, but a wonderful, smart, and sassy mentee named Christina. Christina and I usually spend our Friday afternoons strolling around the KIPP campus or coloring whilst chatting about boys, books, TV wrestling, and feminism; occasionally we play our own adapted versions of tag or Red Light/Green Light, and many times our visits end with music-less dance parties. Participating in PII/KIPP has thus far proved to be one of my most rewarding life-experiences. I would not trade for anything my Tuesday evenings spent snacking with other Plan II students whilst discussing KIPP/Michelle Rhee/poverty/politics/St. Grottlesnoot, or the Friday afternoons when Christina reminds me how fun being ten years old can be.
My name is Stephanie Livieres and I’m a second year Plan II major. I was born in Houston and went to Stratford High School. I applied to join the Plan II-KIPP partnership because the class looked really interesting and I thought it would be a very rewarding experience to mentor a student at KIPP Austin College Prep; I’m delighted to say that the Plan II-KIPP partnership has completely met my expectations and more. My mentee is absolutely awesome; her name is Alondra and she is adorable. I love going to KIPP every week and spending time with her! Our class is also really interesting and has really opened my eyes to the failings of our public education system, and the different options that have been implemented to combat the current failures.
My name is Angus McLeod and I am from San Antonio. My majors are Plan II, International Relations, and History. Both of my parents are teachers and from a young age I was instilled with a belief that education and learning are some of the most important things to our society. Without an equitable and effective education system, our democracy and the overall fabric of our colorful and vibrant society would unravel. When I heard about the KIPP/Plan II Partnership I saw a way that I could get involved on the frontline, working to achieve the equality and fairness that our system currently lacks.
The mentee I was paired with from KIPP Austin is a very bright and athletic 5th grader. We have played numerous games—he has beaten me at just about each one—including soccer, Frisbee, football, and others. But we also focus on other important things including schoolwork. It has been an incredibly enriching experience to spend time at KIPP Austin and I have learned a lot about education in America, the charter school movement, and through my mentee, the challenges of life as a 5th grader. He has taught me a lot about myself and I am deeply grateful for this exciting opportunity to make a difference.
I'm currently a sophomore at UT, double majoring in Music and Plan II, and I'm originally from McAllen, TX. My mentee, Ana, is an awesome individual and I've had an amazing time getting to know her over this past semester. We both have long hair, love Takis, and like to play with ladybugs when they land on our shoulders. I'm so glad to be a part of the Plan II/KIPP partnership and I am very excited for the adventures Ana and I have will have in the future.
My name is Karthik Ramachandran, and I am a second year Plan II Honors/Business Honors major at UT. I am from Plano, Texas, and come from a family that stressed the importance of an education from a young age. Both my parents are teachers (Father is a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, Mother is a self-employed math tutor), and I have experienced firsthand the impact a teacher/mentor can have on a child’s development. This, combined with my previous experience as a mentor in the PAL program in middle school, got me very interested in KIPP. Being a KIPP mentor allows me to make a difference in the life of my mentee, and I cannot be more grateful for such an amazing opportunity to help another individual out. My mentee, Jeremiah, and I are avid sports fans, particularly of football. Every time I visit him, I make sure to take a football so we can toss it around a bit, and it is definitely the highlight of my week to see Jeremiah make a phenomenal, leaping catch in the middle of the KIPP yard. From an academic standpoint, we both share a passion for math and science, and talk at great length about current topics in his math and science classes. Jeremiah’s positive attitude to a new educational environment at KIPP not just impressed me, but inspired me to tackle even my most difficult problems with a smile and determination. I know that he has a successful career ahead of him, and can’t wait for him to graduate KIPP and eventually join the University of Kentucky (his dream school). The KIPP class has allowed me to engage in thoughtful discussion about the current status of America’s education system, and this discussion has really opened my eyes as to the inequalities that exist in our society today with regard to education. The class has made me so grateful for the stellar educational opportunities that I had as a child, and has inspired me to do my part in improving educational opportunities for underprivileged individuals. From guest speakers, to KIPP In The News articles, to even my peers’ blogs on mentoring, the KIPP class has always been a very enlightening experience, and I can honestly say that with every class, article, and blog I learn more about our country’s education system. I hope to continue as a member of the Plan II/KIPP partnership for many years to come, and I hope to be involved in educational issues for the rest of my life.
My name is Austyn Shaner, and I am a 3rd year Plan II student. I am from Pearland, TX, a suburb just outside of Houston. I grew interested in KIPP when I went to a Teach for America information session; I was super excited when I found out about the KIPP-Plan II Partnership.
My mentee’s name is Allison. She’s quite a free spirit. During my visits we typically play cards or draw photos. We have played basketball a few times too, despite my severe lack of coordination. In fact, Allison has showed me quite a few moves on the court. The great thing about this partnership is that it exposes you to various facets of education. Going to KIPP is one of the highlights of my week!
My name is Megan Wolfrom, and I am a sophomore from Beaumont, TX, majoring in Plan II and Journalism. I learned about the Plan II/KIPP partnership in Lee Walker's Pathways to Civic Engagement class and have since become extremely interested in the topic of education reform. At a time when inequality in education has become a national issue, it has been amazing to experience firsthand a model that is actually achieving results. I have absolutely loved spending time with my mentee, Brianna, each week. She has such a big personality, and we spend most of our meetings at a picnic table talking about anything and everything. We also play a lot of frisbee! In class, we attempt to understand the magnitude of the problems surrounding education inequality so that we can contribute to the solution. This partnership has taught me that one of the most important things that you can contribute is your time. Being a mentor allows you to participate in meaningful, necessary discussions, bond with other mentors, and most importantly, invest yourself in the life of a KIPPster--culminating in one of the most invigorating, worthwhile experiences of your life.
My name is Will Benter and I'm a third-year Plan II/Business Honors major here at UT. I'm from Houston, TX and have bad a blast with the KIPP program this year. My mentee is Alex and he is a 5th grader at KIPP Austin College Prep. He's very active at school and I'm always impressed with how popular he is with the older kids at the school. When I was in 5th grade I would have been terrified to hang out with and talk to 8th graders, but he pulls it off very smoothly. When I hang out with him at KIPP, we usually either play football or just walk around and talk about life. He's not very big, but he can throw the football just as far as I can, so I'm planning on bringing some college scouts to campus sometime soon to check him out. This program is a great, unique opportunity to make a real impact on someone's life, and to better understand yourself as a person. While I have a lot of fun with Alex, We discuss serious situations in our lives as well, helping each other overcome them to the best of our abilities. This program has also been an interesting insight into the operations of social justice programs, as you get to evaluate the KIPP program from the bottom up. I've established a meaningful relationship that I anticipate will continue long into the future, and I'm truly thankful for that.
I’m Amanda and I’m from Houston, Texas. I am majoring in Plan II and Chemistry with the hopes of attending medical school or doing Teach for America. I became interested in the Plan II/KIPP partnership after taking Community and Place with Professor Lee Walker as a freshman. I have learned so much about the education system and my eyes have been opened to the inequality in this system and the uneven playing field that is reinforced because of the lack of equal education for all. KIPP serves as a model that is really working. My mentee and I have a great time talking and playing games when we are together. I love getting to hear about her family and her life and she loves playing Monopoly and Mancala and hearing about college. Through my mentee I can see how KIPP is working and how different her education and wealth of knowledge would be if she wasn’t at a place like KIPP. This program is a great way to learn about the education system, play an important role and influence a child, and be inspired to work in and on a system that needs help.
My name is Jordan Downs and I am from Dallas, TX. I am a sophomore Plan II Honors and Business Honors major. I initially became interested in the Plan II-KiIPP program after having volunteered extensively in high school. I was exposed to the dire effects of dropping out of high school amother other socioeconomic problems. I have really enjoyed being a part of the program, discussing injustices in the educational system, and hanging out with my mentee, Cristina.
I like to think I have faith in humanity. I believe in people. Helping others has always been a source of pleasure for me. So obviously when I first was told about the mentoring program at KIPP I felt like it would be a fulfilling experience. However, there was the caveat that the mentors involved should also be interested in education reform. In all honesty prior to my involvement with KIPP I had not really given any thought to education reform. I do remember complaining about the incompetence of the public school administrators in my hometown, Dallas. But I really did nothing more than complain and wait around for someone else to change the system. I thought about publishing all the horror stories I had heard from various teachers and family friends over the years, but again, it was nothing more than a thought. KIPP is my first real big step towards educational reform.
I am currently a photojournalism major. While my work focuses mainly on the fine art aspect of photography, I have begun to fall in love with the artistic aspects of the everyday situation. That is why I have begun documenting my encounters with my mentee. When we interact I try my hardest to relate whatever we are doing back to the community ideal of KIPP. I try to read stories and play games that focus on teamwork and strong work ethic. I hope my presence and guidance will give my mentee something to associate with this far off image of college. I feel like I am tethering Venson to his collegiate potential simply be showing him how strong of an individual I am and what college has done for me.
I became interested in the Plan II/KIPP partnership because, having grown up in the public school system, although I received an excellent education, I noticed that I was lucky in this respect because most people in Fort Worth public schools did not have the opportunities that I did. This readily apparent inequality in the public school system, drawn largely along socioeconomic and racial lines, which serves to perpetuate the class system as it is and render nearly impossible the idea of the American dream of upward social mobility by keeping those who are already poor uneducated, outraged me, but I wasn't really sure what I could do as a high school student to help. So naturally, when I got to college and heard about the Plan II/KIPP partnership, I jumped at the opportunity.
In addition to learning about education reform (with a focus on the KIPP charter school network), the Plan II/KIPP partnership enables its participants to make a tremendous impact on a student at KIPP Austin College Prep. For me, it's been a very rewarding experience, and not just for the satisfaction I've gained from doing something to help. In the process of getting to know my mentee and discussing mentoring experiences with other students in the class, I have found that I've also learned a lot about myself.
My name is Maggie Gunn. I'm a second year student from Dallas,TX studying Plan II and English in the UTEACH certification program. I want to work in Education Reform in some capacity (beginning as a teacher) and was excited about the PII/KIPP partnership as soon as I heard about it. The KIPP partnership class has been a fantastic way to learn about current reform movements in Education on various levels - we talk about big picture/philosophical/pedagogical change AND the day to day challenges and triumphs we face with our mentees. No one can begin to make positive change in the field of education without spending time in the field with real students, real teachers, and real hardships, and PII/KIPP is a great class for getting your feet wet in real-time issues of educational importance. Even if Education is not your "forte" or "cup-of-tea," your experience and passions can be a huge asset to the class and to a student in the mentorship program. And I don't know any college student who could not be taught a thing or two about passion and commitment from a KIPP College Prepster. My 11 year old mentee, Azalea, keeps reminding me that I can, indeed, "be the change."
- Major: Plan 2 and Business Honors
- Concentrations: Quantitative Finance and Mathematics
- From: Houston, TX (Stratford High School)
- Mentee: Brian
Twice every week, Brian and I meet and hang out at KIPP for an hour. We always play football or board games, but the entire time we talk about life and how we each got into our situations. We catch each other up on our most recent activities, and we talk about what we want to do in life. Brian is very intelligent and is very principled in his actions. From the class, I have learned about KIPP, social injustices, and how people are addressing social injustices in society today.
My name is Mary McGeehan and I am a sophomore majoring in simply Plan II. I am from Houston, TX (really close to the Katy area). My mentee, Janeth, and I are avid craft lovers. We’ve created friendship bracelets, collages, acorn people, abstract drawings, and even a Turkey Scavenger Hunt around the KIPP courtyard. We also enjoy magic tricks, leaf collecting, and intense acorn races. Participating in the Plan II/KIPP partnership has been a very rewarding experience that has opened my eyes to some of the inherent flaws in our current educational system. Learning about the KIPP Charter school has been a way for me to see a direct, successful method of how a social injustice, such as educational inequality, can be practically addressed.
I'm a sophomore from Lake Jackson, Texas, majoring in Psychology with a Pre-med concentration. Over this past year, I've really come to look forward to the time I spend with my 5th grade mentee, Sonia. She's a very active and hands-on (and sweet!) girl so we usually make oragami or do some other arts and craft type of activity. Overall, after a lacking personal experience with public education, P2K is giving shape to my passion for education reform. The combination mentoring and class result in a complete immersion in KIPP culture--I catch myself thinking and talking about it constantly. The program has helped me realize that our public education system does have hope and a future, and that I want to be a part of the change.
I am a third-year Plan II and Human Biology major from Sugar Land, Texas. I have always enjoyed working with children and have been a youth basketball coach, a tutor, and most recently, a Mad Scientist. Nevertheless, my experience didn't prepare me for KIPP. It's a different world, and I'm constantly in awe of everyone there - the teachers, the staff, and especially the students. My mentee is Gaby. We're reaching the point in our relationship where we are getting extremely comfortable around each other. For the most part, we just chat during my visits, but we also do some sort of arts and crafts project every week because it's something we both really enjoy. The P2K partnership/class is a really amazing thing, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to have their eyes opened by studies of educational inequality and the way an inspirational institution is making a dent in that gap.
I am honored and excited to serve as the Student Assistant for the 2009-2010 Plan II-KIPP class. My involvement in the partnership thus far has piqued my interest in education and social entrepreneurship, and inspired me to add a Sociology major so I can further study the sociology of education. I am also thrilled about continuing to mentor my incredible Little Sister, who is always nice to me and makes me friendship bracelets even though she is so much cooler than I am.
Jessica Collins is from Crosby, TX. She is Plan II Junior. Jessica is majoring in Government and Plan II with a minor in Sociology. Jessica’s mentee is Maya. They enjoy talking about everything from Maya’s new baby sister to future goals. Jessica is proud of the growth and progress of the Plan II/KIPP partnership and the future of the partnership. This is a wonderful program that connects middle and high school students with current college students. Having Plan II students mentor KIPP students puts the college experience into perspective and the possibility of college into a feasible goal. She is currently in charge of the Plan II KIPP Tutoring program.
Jill Gandhi is a third year Plan II Honors and Psychology major. She is originally from Sugar Land, Texas but feels at home in Austin. Jill sees much of herself in her Little and often feels like she is reliving her childhood when they hang out. She and her Little love creating structures and animals out of Play-Doh, Jenga blocks, paper, and beads. They also enjoy discussing the plausibility of aliens and paranormal beings. Sometimes Jill gets so caught up in having fun with her Little, that she forgets how important her work is. But in the moments when her Little lights up when she visits or when her Little excitedly asks questions so fast she can no longer speak, Jill is struck by the realization that she is truly making an impact on a young girl's development and life. Volunteering at KIPP has been like no other experience Jill has had at the University of Texas.
I’m a Plan II and Latin American Studies incoming third-year from Houston (real Houston, not the boondocks). I met my Little at KIPP in October, 2008, and we plan to continue our relationship indefinitely. We have grown close over the year and really begun to define a unique relationship. My Little is somewhat unusual for a seventh-grade male KIPPster in that he doesn’t like to play sports, is open and (openly) thoughtful, and enjoys talking with people older than him. And without fail, that is how we spend our time together: talking. Our relationship is also unusual because I am studying abroad for an entire year, starting in July. This will be the first KIPP-Plan II experiment in long distance relationships, so we’ll see how it goes. We plan to keep in touch via email, letters, and possibly Skype. Our partnership is valuable to me because I learn so much each time I go – about KIPP as an institution, about the minds of middle schoolers in general, and in particular about the penetrating insight and struggles of my Little at school, in relationships, and at home. He always surprises me, and it’s great fun.
Name: Rhuju Vasavada
Major: Plan II/ Business Honors Program
Hometown: Sugar Land, TX
What I like to do with my little: My little, Alondra, loves to talk about everything going on in her life. Since this usually takes up the majority of time we spend together, we don’t usually play any games. Talking with Alondra is really easy for me, and we get along really well. She likes to show me the “spooky” parts of the KIPP campus, so every now and then we walk around the school. I also like to talk a lot to, so we fit perfectly together!
What I have taken away from the class: The classes we have every other week have taught me a lot about the discrepancies between the educations received by children from upper and lower income homes. I also have learned about charter schools, in particular KIPP, through this course. I had no idea what KIPP was before applying for the program, and I have realized that it might not be the perfect solution for all students that come from lower income backgrounds, but it is definitely making a great impact. I hope to follow the future of the KIPP school system, and keep in touch with my little as well!
Rebecca "Bee" Counts
I graduated in 2009 with majors in Plan II and English. My little, Jesus, will enter sixth grade at KIPP this fall. We spent most of our meetings playing soccer or board games and discussing our families and respective schooling experiences. Spending two full school years getting to know Jesus has helped me gain a better understanding of the complex forces that shape education and adolescence, and has prompted me to examine my own privilege as a White male college student. I'm currently pursuing a Master of Education at Harvard University and hope to teach middle school English in the near future.
Sarah was a Plan II and government major of the class of 2005. Though she grew up overseas, Sarah calls San Antonio, Texas home. During her time with the Plan II KIPP partnership, Sarah mentored a middle schooler named Lexus for two years. Lexus and Sarah met once a week during Lexus' 7th and 8th grade years to play board games and talk about school, movies, and boys. During her second year in the partnership, Sarah had the opportunity to serve as the student assistant for the Plan II KIPP TC course. Sarah was so inspired and interested by KIPP's work that she decided to join Teach For America after graduation. She is now in her first year teaching Algebra and Geometry at Boston Preparatory Charter School in Boston, Massachusetts.
Shyam Sivasankar from Southlake, Texas is a Plan II/Pre-Med major and got involved with the KIPP Program in his sophomore year. After graduating his first little to a public Austin area high school, Shyam now mentors Edwin. Edwin and Shyam enjoy playing UNO, Jenga, Speed, and Frisbee. Shyam plans to attend medical school eventually. In the meantime he hopes to join the Houston Teach For America Corps, to which he has been accepted. The Plan II KIPP Partnership has opened his eyes to the issues surrounding education reform and civic engagement and has motivated him to stay involved with these issues wherever his life might take him.
Hao "Jimmy" Wang
I graduated in May 2008 with majors in Plan II and Psychology. I am originally from Midland, TX, but I went to high school in The Woodlands, TX. I was paired with my Little Sister, Marissa, in May 2007. Originally, I met with her at KIPP, but after a year we switched to the community-based mentorship program so that now I pick her up and we hang out around town. We enjoy listening to music, going to the library, going out to eat Chinese food, cooking and volunteering at the Town Lake Animal Center when we can. I have really enjoyed getting to know my Little, the other mentors and learning about educational reform and social entrepreneurship through the class. When I graduated from UT, I began working at KIPP Austin College Prep as a Teaching Fellow. I still work at KIPP, but now I will be teaching 7th grade science.