Words of Advice from KIPP ENC Alumni

Anastasia JonesAnastasia Jones, Pride of 2011
I graduated from KIPP Gaston College Preparatory in 2011 and went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, I graduated from The Wharton School with a B.S. in Economics. At Penn, I concentrated in Strategic Management because I wanted a more holistic view of business than an alternative like a finance concentration could have offered. A little over a year ago, I started working for JP Morgan as a Financial Analyst in their Firmwide Financial Control team. I also became a mentor with the Give Something Back Foundation, which provides mentors and scholarships to Pell grant-eligible students. More recently, I took the GMAT and have started applying to MBA programs. Since graduating from Penn, I’ve also developed a greater appreciation for travel. I try to take an international trip at least once a year.

Looking back on my undergraduate experiences, Penn really made me work hard for my degree. Beyond the rigors of academia, I was in a difficult program where I was the minority. I had to prove that I was chosen for a reason, I was there for a reason, and I was just as capable as my peers. That process helped me build up my confidence and my resiliency. I learned how to continuously push and improve myself, which has served me well at JP Morgan.

Considering my time post-grad, I can easily say one of the more difficult challenges was finding the ‘right’ job. A college degree alone doesn’t guarantee success. Hard work is still a necessity. I put in multiple job applications to multiple companies. I taught myself new programming skills, new interviewing skills, and I learned how to sell myself despite not having the recommended level of work experience. Through that process, I learned the value of focusing on myself, my improvement, and just staying in my own lane rather than comparing myself to my peers.

To all of the KIPP alumni currently in undergrad: don’t ever let someone’s ‘no’ deter you from your dreams or your goals. A no isn’t really a no. You just have to figure out how to make that no turn into a yes. People can always be persuaded. A no today could be a yes tomorrow.

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whyIpickedpton_brandon20141107_scottb_012_575Brandon Scott, Pride of 2011
I graduated from KIPP GCP Pride High in 2011 and, after a gap year, began studying at Princeton. While there, I created my own major in the Aesthetics, a combination of art history, philosophy, and literature.

In the year or so since graduating, I completed a thirty-week internship at the Art Institute of Chicago, and am now spending the summer as an intern for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. When my internship ends, I look forward to beginning graduate studies at Williams College in art history. Aside from all of this studying and interning, my main passions are to read, write, run, and photograph things.

Giving a little thought to the matter of college and how well my undergraduate experiences prepared me for the ‘real world’, I first wonder why we set up a binary here. I think it is harmful to consider college to be somehow unreal and those things outside of a college campus to be real or more real. I like to think of varieties in reality, each one affording some different experience but connected to the other forms. In this sense, I think my time at Princeton proved to be rather important because of the ideas I learned and the people who I met, both of which continue to enrich my life even though I am no longer on campus.

Cast in a similar light, my experiences at KIPP still have a significant impact upon my life. I cannot quantify it, but if I could, the quantity would be rather large, tremendous even. I highly doubt I would be in the same place that I am now with the prospect of making an integrated life, as I believe I have, without my time at KIPP. KIPP Pride High School gave me a formal education from talented and devoted teachers, but it also gave me the space and desire to educate myself.

Looking back on my time since graduating from Princeton, I cannot say that much has been hard in the primary way we use the word, meaning an encounter or prolonged series of events that prevent us from living well. I think since graduating I have lived well, but as Alfred North Whitehead said, “now one must figure out how to live better and then live best.”

If I had to offer some advice for the KIPP alumni currently navigating college, I would first begin by admitting that I have not much in the way of wisdom right now. Nevertheless, there are two things I can offer which I try to do daily. First, try not to make too many absolute distinctions in life. It is perhaps good to be able to distinguish things, but don’t take differentness as meaning absolute separateness—instead try to see the continuity and interrelated complexity of issues and experience. Second, do not be afraid of self-experimentation, either in the grand connotation of it or (and more importantly) in a more quotidian sense. To a large extent our lives are necessarily (and beneficially) structured by a variety of conventions; however, sometimes we sense that we would like to do things otherwise, and it is in those opportunities for experimenting that we really begin to make a life that feels like our own.

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A huge thank you to Andrew Sanguillen (Pride of 2011 and recent graduate of Duke University) who helped his peers develop these first-person narratives.