As a proud Spelman College student and KIPP Public Schools alum, I urge Sen. Kamala Harris to support public charter schools.
Nearly 90% of Black Democratic primary voters support expanding access to more public school options, including charter schools. In Atlanta, where I live, 83% supported providing “more choice in the public school system,” including charters.
So, when Sen. Harris’s running mate, former Vice President Joe Biden, proposes to give districts control of how many new charter schools get approved, he is pushing to disrupt a thriving educational community that empowers African American students to achieve higher rates of college completion and success. For students like me who went from public charter schools to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), having the education options to excel has made all the difference. As an HBCU alum herself, Sen. Harris should know that public charter schools send thousands of students to HBCUs every year. And that’s a good thing.
More than 2,100 KIPP alumni are currently enrolled at HBCUs around the country. KIPP has also provided many scholarships for students like me to further their education. And KIPP board members like Martha Karsh and Reed Hastings have thrown their weight behind HBCUs, making historic gifts to support not just KIPP alumni, but all African American students at these institutions.
KIPP surveys show that KIPP alumni experience a stronger sense of belonging, better health, are more likely to have a mentor and to seek out academic supports than students at non-HBCUs, which has been absolutely true for me. I have also learned that KIPP alumni enrolled in HBCUs, experience higher 1st– to 2nd-year persistence rates than peers with similar academic backgrounds enrolled in other colleges.
As a KIPP Metro Atlanta alum, I was exposed to a culture of a quality education and given access to resources on my path to college. KIPP has provided me with hands-on training on effective note-taking, time management when studying, and understanding the value of social networking to be successful in college and beyond. Charter schools like KIPP provide necessary guidance and counseling, throughout K-12 into college and beyond, for many students from low-income families and Black and Latinx to students to attend and complete college. Even though I’ve graduated from KIPP and am now at Spelman, I still regularly speak to my KIPP Through College counselor, the same one I was assigned when I was in middle school.
And as a current student at the top HBCU in the nation, I believe that it is valuable for students to attend HBCUs and become centered in an environment created for African American children to succeed around other strong-minded students and resources. HBCUs provide a connection to Black history, construct a supportive environment, and offer beneficial programs in fields of STEM. While attending an HBCU, I’ve also noticed that the alumni associations provide a close network of long histories and legacies that create long-term relationships and opportunities. I am proud to follow in the footsteps of such monumental trailblazers and HBCU alumni such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Alice Walker, and Langston Hughes.
So, Senator Harris, don’t ignore the will of Black voters around the nation and experiences like mine at a public charter school. As a fellow HBCU alum, hear me out. Make my voice count.
Garilyn Vause is a junior at Spelman College.