New Orleans has ten KIPP schools serving grades Kindergarten through 12th. KIPP New Orleans also has a program called KIPP Through College, which supports KIPP middle school and high school alumni on their path to and through college.
Alumni talk with an alumni advisor at least twice a month to check in on financial aid, grades and other aspects of college. Alumni advisors help students access existing resources on their campuses. Finally, KIPP Through College helps students cover unexpected costs such as winter clothes, books, and transportation back home for out-of-state students.
“So last time when we talked you’d just gotten a calculus quiz back that you weren’t so happy about,” says KIPP Through College’s Scarlett Feinberg. “You said there was going to be another one on Tuesday. How’d that go?”
“That went great,” answers Randy Caldwell, an 18-year-old freshman at Xavier University. “Because I put it in my calendar that that quiz was next Tuesday. I was ready for it. I studied day before, the hour before. I ended up doing great on it.”
Caldwell is studying business finance at Xavier, and before college, he attended two different KIPP New Orleans schools for 6 – 12 grades.
Feinberg and Caldwell have known each other for years. Feinberg worked at Caldwell’s high school, KIPP Renaissance, and now she’s his Alumni Advisor which is part of KIPP Through College. The program sounds pretty much like what it is: support for KIPP alumni to see them through their entire college career.
Feinberg and Caldwell get together a few times each month. Today, it’s in a booth inside Xavier’s University Center. Feinberg looks over her notes from their last meeting and asks Caldwell what helped him get a better grade on his most recent calculus test.
“What helped me be prepared for that quiz was I actually put it in my calendar,” answers Caldwell. “Just because, you know, I felt I had to be aware of it. Cause I knew if I didn’t put it in there, I would have forgotten about it.”
“Great. You also said, last time we checked in, that you were going to calendar out important dates and that worked out.”
“That worked out,” Caldwell replies.
“What else have you calendared out?” asks Feinberg. “Tell me about your organization system. How’s it working?”
As Caldwell talks, Feinberg takes notes on her computer. Then she looks closely at his calendar.
“You have on here to ask accounting tutor about tutoring sessions.”
“So you’re adding all that on your calendar too?”
“And that’s working out?”
“So this is…?”
“This is like—solid.”
Feinberg looks over her notes. “So check: calculus quiz went up. Check: we’re using a calendar on our dates. And then the other thing I had on here from last time that I was a bit concerned about was balancing working at Popeyes and school. How’s that balancing act going?”
Caldwell tells Feinberg that working at Popeyes and going to school at the same time left him tired and drained. He got a D in Calculus and an F in English. Caldwell says he took the job because he knew he’d have expenses in college, like books, but now that he has a little money saved, he quit his job. He says: school comes first. But Feinberg wants to make sure.
“Do you think we need to revisit that later on and see how money is going or do you feel like you’ve got that under control?”
“I got it under control,” replies Caldwell.
“Okay. Did you get any refund check from your Financial Aid?” asks Feinberg.
“I still need to check on that. I have been not as concerned with it because I’ve been so caught up with schoolwork. But I need to check on that ASAP.”
Knowing how to deal with these kinds of things – like the financial aid office and balancing your workload– are a part of college many people are unprepared for. Yet if a student puts off dealing with these things, it can mean the difference between graduating and not graduating.
“When we look at why students weren’t persisting and graduating, it was those kinds of intangible things,” says Larry Murphy, the director of KIPP Through College in New Orleans. “Like these conversations seem like conversations that might not be necessary for the lay person, but for our students, they can very often be the difference between staying in school and leaving the next semester.”
KIPP Through College helps their alumni with other tricky things. Say you need to buy books, but your financial aid hasn’t come through? They can help with a short-term loan. Or you go to college up north and suddenly need something called a winter coat? They can help with that too. And if you are in college outside of New Orleans, get ready for Skype and phone call advising.
Also, Feinberg says she spent “two and a half hours yesterday putting together 15 care packages for our out-of-state students.”
Inside the care packages? Zapp’s potato chips, pralines and, of course, some KIPP New Orleans swag.
Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Learn more about KIPP New Orleans.