KIPP Stockton: My Students Will Know They Belong
One of my most vivid memories of school is being in third grade and going to the school library with a very specific mission in mind. I am the proud daughter of Vietnamese refugees (pictured below), and my parents always told me wonderful and beautiful things about their home country and Vietnamese culture. Having never been there before, I was eager to know more and to experience Vietnam for myself, so I turned to books.
At the school library, I excitedly searched for the section of the library with books about Vietnam—only to find that every single book on the subject was about the Vietnam War and from the perspectives of American veterans. I remember looking at the gory pictures, thinking “What is this?”. I dejectedly put each book back on the shelf. I’m not sure exactly what clicked in my head, but that day made me believe “This isn’t for me.” This being school, reading, books—none of it was meant for me or people like me.
I didn’t see my story and the story of my family reflected anywhere in my education—not in the library, not in the curriculum, not in my teachers. And, looking back now, I realize that made me the kind of student I became. I didn’t bother anyone, but I wasn’t the best student and I didn’t feel particularly invested in school. School felt like something I had to do, but I didn’t see where it could take me.
Eventually, though, sometime in middle school, I started to keep a notebook. Now, as an educator, I see that because I couldn’t find my own story, I started writing it myself. When I didn’t find myself represented in the narrative, I created a new one.
KIPP Stockton Middle School will be a place that affirms, validates, and honors students’ experiences, because our students should feel confident, proud of themselves and their backgrounds, and know they are the leaders.
Luckily, a teacher noticed my interest in and knack for storytelling and leveraged that to activate me and bring me in as a learner. It completely changed the way I viewed education. It helped me find value in telling my own story and is part of what inspired me to become a teacher. If a teacher could make me feel seen and celebrated, I knew I could and should do that for other young people.
I can’t wait for KIPP Stockton Middle School to open this August. As the founding principal, I want our students to feel a sense of belonging in their education. KIPP Stockton Middle School will be a place that affirms, validates, and honors students’ experiences, because our students should feel confident, proud of themselves and their backgrounds, and know they are the leaders.
I want our students to know they come from a city rich in the history of activism and leadership. That the city they are being raised in is the same city that has raised and produced amazing activists and leaders like Maya Angelou, Maxine Hong Kingston, Larry Itliong, and so many others.
I know that young people are the leaders we’ve been waiting for. When we fully invest in them, they thrive and change our community and world for the better. However, I know from my own experience that when students believe that learning or education isn’t for them, they disengage from the entire process. This is why I am committed to working with families, students, and Stockton to build a student-centered school grounded in equity, community, and radical love.
We are still accepting applications for 5th Grade at KIPP Stockton Middle School!