Leveling the Playing Field in D.C.

In my work, I get to meet KIPPsters from all across the nation who are being the change we all wish to see in the world. They amaze me every day.

With this in mind, I wanted to share the words of a few KIPPsters who will be that change this summer in Washington, D.C. with the KIPP Federal Policy Fellowship Program. Thomaia Pamplin’s application essay shows how being called “underpriveleged” pushed her to seize every opportunity for her own advantage. 

Underprivileged. The first time I saw this word was in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers; he described KIPPsters as “underprivileged minorities.” I was confused and somewhat upset by this word. I had two parents who loved me, sisters I could depend on, food to eat every day, and a place to sleep; how was I underprivileged? Then I became a student at an elite New England boarding school, and I immediately found myself trying to pass as well connected or rich. I began to understand what Gladwell meant in his description of KIPPsters; compared to the children of lawmakers and their wealthy benefactors, I was underprivileged. Something clicked in me after this realization and I no longer felt as hesitant with unfamiliar opportunities. Because of that change in me, I’ve backpacked through the Teton Valley and spent a month studying education in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, India. I recognize a good opportunity when I see one, and this fellowship is a great one. It supports “underprivileged” students and gives us a chance to make a difference in a realm we have never had a say in before.

I would be an excellent candidate for this program because of the values KIPP has instilled in me. The KIPP adage, “All of Us Will Learn,” is an idea I try to embody in group settings. Most recently, I worked on a video project for a Theatre course with a group of three students. There was one freshman among us, who was the youngest and often sat to the side, not speaking. She was our appointed director, but seemed too nervous to direct. I came to her with questions and encouraged her to speak up. By the end of the project, she was an excellent director because group members listened and responded to her suggestions which boosted her confidence. I believe this same approach to collaboration would be useful on Capitol Hill. I recognize that an individual can perform well, but a team’s results can be even greater and more satisfying. Being a good listener, contributing, and encouraging are the foundation of “All of Us Will Learn” and critical for having a good group mentality.

Another essential outlook that I possess is represented through the KIPP phrase, “Be nice. Work hard.” The order of these statements changes from school to school, but I particularly liked the order my middle school chose. “Be nice. Work Hard.” is so important to me because it demonstrates that above all humanity and kindness matter more than individual ambition. Lawmakers have much responsibility because they decide the parameters of our lives. “Be nice. Work hard.” is a representation of putting service to your community before your own ambitions.

The opportunity to participate in this program and an internship in DC is more than a resume booster to me. Chances like these level the playing field for students like me. With the principles ingrained in me from KIPP, I believe I have the tools needed to succeed on Capitol Hill and serve my community. 

You may also enjoy reading the essays of her fellow KIPPsters and D.C. Fellows, Shirin Vetry and Josue Coronado

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