In early October, Penn and KIPP held a ceremony to celebrate an agreement (MOU) that memorialized the partnership that has been in place since we first took KIPPsters to Dear Ole Penn in the spring of 1998. That campus visit has always been one of the most inspirational tours we have done, as not only do the KIPPsters get to see what a beautiful campus can look like in the heart of a big city, they also get a taste of college life, listening to a lecture on American Diplomatic History by Professor Walter McDougal, getting grilled Socratic style on a law school case by Professor Regina Austin, and oh ya…visiting the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house and eating cheesesteaks.
Our partnership got even closer in 2006 when our first KIPPsters started to enroll at Penn. To date a dozen have gone to Penn and are joining KIPP leaders who are also Quakers such as Elliott Witney (KIPP Houston), Jason Botel (KIPP Baltimore), Josh Zoia (KIPP NYC), 10 KIPP teachers, former KIPP leadership recruitment director Allison Rouse, and yours truly (although friends from back in the day still dispute my alumnus status and wondered if I really graduated…diplomas, like hips, don’t lie )
At the October ceremony, the KIPPsters at Penn and several of us Big KIPPsters got to hear from KIPP Foundation board member and Penn-KIPP partnership funder Martha Karsh, Penn Dean of Admissions Eric Furda, and Penn President Amy Gutmann. Dr. Gutmann focused her remarks on “Tikkun olam,” a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world”. What a beautiful phrase that sums up why Penn is partnering with KIPP, why KIPP is partnering with Penn, and not to mention why we are getting out of bed in the morning to work very hard and be very nice.
I have now travelled all over the US where we have schools and where we do not yet have schools but there are needs for great schools, and I have also visited underserved communities in Mexico, India, Israel, New Zealand, Colombia, Chile, and Brazil. Dr. Gutmann is absolutely correct: we…all of us…humanity has a responsibility to ensure that demographics do not determine destiny. As we move into the 21st century and more and more countries around the world embrace the concept of the land of the free and the home of the brave, and as our American Dream becomes a shared dream that all parents all over the globe have for their children, we cannot tolerate gross disparities that indicate children do not have the freedom to pursue their passion and interests simply because of the circumstances of their birth.
Thank you, Penn; thank you, Martha; thank you, KIPPsters big and small; and thank you, Amy! Tikkun Olam indeed…Plow on!