A grassroots effort to find alternatives for high-quality education in St. Louis led to the 2009 opening of KIPP Inspire Academy, a charter middle-school in St. Louis. KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) is a national network of free, open-enrollment college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing underserved students in communities.
Executive Director Kelly Garrett shares that it was the local business community that initiated the launch of KIPP in St. Louis. Describing what he calls “an extraordinary amount of community investment from the very beginning,” Garrett shares how a team of business and community leaders, along with an academic sponsor, formed a leadership board appropriately called SUTAK—St. Louisans United to Attract KIPP. Committed to raise both the interest and capital needed to bring the proven model to town, SUTAK garnered community support, selected a school site and served on the inaugural KIPP St. Louis Board.
Garrett credits one of KIPP’s five pillars—the power to lead—as one of the key components of its success, both for its high-performing schools and KIPP regions alike. Leadership is also critical for getting people to invest in the KIPP model, he says. “We are very careful to talk about investing in KIPP: St. Louis…. We do expect that there will be a significant return on investment for the monies that are contributed.”