During the summer of 2007, just before the beginning of my junior year, I made a decision that changed my life.
I chose to challenge myself with longer school days, more rigorous classes and a culture of high expectations by choosing to enroll at KIPP Gaston College Preparatory and join the Pride of 2009. The decision was built on a promise that was made to me on a hot July day in KIPP Pride High School’s parking lot. The promise was, ‘if I was willing to work hard and do my best despite any challenges I may face, I would be accepted to and prepared for the college of my choice.’
There were no idle hours during those two years of KIPP Pride High School. Every day presented an opportunity to do more, and every interaction with my teachers and peers was a chance for them to push me further in my understanding. I worked two jobs during those years and occasionally had to ask my teachers for a ride to work after school when my car would not start. The old yellow jeep became an extension of the classroom. While listening to Bob Dylan, my English teacher would ask me to defend my arguments from class or a recent essay, while my biology teacher would grade papers in the backseat and help me plan for the next test. The opportunities to grow at Pride High never ceased.
Fast forward seven years to today- my teachers’ support and encouragement continues daily, but the relationship has changed. They are now my colleagues. After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2013, I returned to Gaston as a college counselor and now teach alongside several of the same teachers that helped me to think critically, develop my own arguments, and engage in academic conversations. It was because of their example and commitment to my classmates and me that I chose to return to the peanut field. Now I help to extend the same promise made to me- success in college and beyond-to my own students.
Having been on both sides of the classroom in Gaston, it’s abundantly clear that our work takes a community of supporters. Dozens of teachers poured their time and energy into my success while I was a student, and now dozens of supporters pour their time and energy into my success as a teacher. Thank you to those of you that have supported our mission along the way, and thank you to those of you that will continue to support as we serve more students in the years to come.