The Final Countdown to the "We Are the Music Experience" Festival

Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ben Coria, a music teacher at KIPP LA Prep, started a small-scale music festival last year featuring the talents of KIPP LA Prep students on their campus. This year, the We Are the Music Experience festival has grown to include multiple KIPP LA schools performing together for the first time on historic Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Check out the video below to hear from Mr. Coria and several student musicians, and sneak a peek of the rock and mariachi band rehearsals. Join us in the coming weeks for footage from the live performance!

KIPP LA Prep: The Road to KIPP LA's Music Festival from KIPP LA Schools on Vimeo.

Tags: KIPP Is Community , KIPP LA Prep , Music Education , Positive School Culture

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Celebrating the Past While Building a Better Tomorrow

Posted Friday, June 16, 2017

Last week marked the end of the 2016-17 KIPP LA school year and we could not be more grateful for the past year’s experiences and optimistic for the future. See below for video highlights from our kindergarten, elementary, and middle-school culmination ceremonies and a list of memorable events from the year.

KIPPsters celebrate their Graduation Day! from KIPP LA Schools on Vimeo.

There were so many incredible moments from this past school year. Here are a few standout achievements, awards, and activities to celebrate:

College and Careers

  • - MIT, Duke, Harvard, Smith, UC Davis, Claremont, And Wellesley accepted KIPP LA alumni for the first time.
  • KIPP Through College hosted several events for students and families preparing for the transition to high school and college.
  • - A group of college-level KIPP LA alumni spent the day at Riot Games as part of KIPP Through College’s Career Development and Support branch.

Focus on Excellence

  • - KIPP LA Prep received National Blue Ribbon School recognition by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • - Maria Morfin of KIPP Sol Academy and Joshua Martinez of KIPP Raíces Academy won the TNTP Fishman Prize honoring exceptional public school teachers.
  • - KIPP Academy of Innovation’s Emily Vogelsong was awarded the prestigious Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award.
  • - Melissa Toohey, the iLab teacher for KIPP Ignite Academy, won the Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge.
  • - School Data Nerd named several KIPP LA elementary and middle schools as top performers for underserved communities.
  • - GreatSchools featured KIPP Sol Academy, KIPP Raíces Academy, and KIPP LA Prep in their report on CA schools providing strong educational opportunities and high levels of achievement for Black and Hispanic students.
  • - The charter petition for KIPP Corazón Academy in South Gate was approved by LAUSD and will open in the fall of 2017 serving students in grades K-1.  

KIPP Is Community

  • - KIPP LA Family Ambassadors hosted the Parent Summit: Our Children Are College Bound with information on college admissions, scholarships, and financial aid.
  • - KIPP LA schools hosted the 3rd annual Innovation Day, a free professional development conference for educators and Ed Tech leaders across Los Angeles.
  • - The KIPP Parent Engagement Program hosted civic engagement events on immigration rights and voter registration support.
  • - A number of KIPP LA schools participated in WE Day, raising money for local community causes.
  • - Corporate partners joined several KIPP LA schools on the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.
  • - KIPP LA partnered with Skadden Arps on MLK Day to beautify the KIPP Comienza Community Prep campus in Huntington Park.

Positive School Culture

  • - 30 students from several KIPP LA schools presented their artwork at the 11th annual MOKA (Museum of KIPP Art) event.
  • - Special guests Michael B. Jordan (Creed), JJ Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Christy Haubegger (talent manager to actresses Sophia Vergara and Eva Longoria) spoke to KIPP LA students about their career aspirations.
  • - KIPP LA partnered with Disney to provide magical experiences for many KIPPsters, featuring studio tours and an exclusive screening of Beauty and the Beast.
  • - Tina Knowles-Lawson served as a mentor for girls from KIPP Academy of Opportunity who participated in “Tina’s Angels.”
  • - Steve Moore, author of the popular King of the Bench book series, visited KIPP Sol Academy, KIPP Iluminar Academy, and KIPP Academy of Innovation as part of KIPP LA’s A to KLA program.
  • - Musical groups from multiple KIPP LA schools joined together for the first time to perform on Olvera Street in the We Are the Music Experience Festival.

Check back for more exciting news. Have a safe and zesty summer!

Tags: College Acceptance , College and Careers , Culmination Ceremonies , Focus on Excellence , Graduation , KIPP Is Community , KIPP LA , Positive School Culture

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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at KIPP Iluminar Academy's Soundcheck Choir

Posted Monday, June 05, 2017

Get a backstage, all-access pass to KIPP Iluminar Academy’s Soundcheck Choir in the video below as they rehearse for the We Are the Music Experience festival - their first-ever public performance! Read on to learn about their process and the importance of music education for students.


Christa Camilleri has been teaching music at KIPP Iluminar Academy (KIA) for almost four years. Ms. Camilleri’s motivation for teaching can be traced back to her childhood. She shares that “growing up I had several music teachers that I loved and what I found in music was a sense of community. Teaching allows me to combine my love of music with my love of students. My students are the best part of my job.”

Ms. Camilleri spoke of the importance of music education not just in the classroom but in life, explaining that “music infiltrates all parts of a student’s development that is vitally important. It can improve coordination and brain functions, sharpen senses, help with language development and math reasoning, and build a sense of confidence and teamwork.” KIA students come to her two or three times a week to learn the fundamentals of music like singing, movement, and good ol’ fashioned recorders.

She describes her students as “zesty, curious, and a lot of fun,” which is apparent in visiting a rehearsal for the Soundcheck Choir. Ms. Camilleri founded the Soundcheck group this past school year. The choir features the talents of KIA second, third, and fourth graders who audition for a spot in the group and rehearse both during and after school each week. “Having a special, select group has been really good for motivating students to work harder at music and it’s great to be able to showcase what KIPP Iluminar is able to achieve at different performances,” said Ms. Camilleri.

The group joins several other KIPP LA schools at the We Are the Music Experience festival on Olvera Street to perform for the first time in public under the organizational guidance of KIPP LA Prep music teacher Ben Coria. “I’m really excited for my students to perform for the general public and I’m excited to see all of the other schools’ music groups as well,” noted Ms. Camilleri. It’s been a long process preparing for the festival, starting with the choice of songs in December and continuing with rhythm, lyrics, and movement practice throughout the winter and spring. No doubt their hard work will pay off. Break a leg, Soundcheck!

Check back in the coming weeks for a glimpse into KIPP LA Prep’s rehearsal process on the road to Olvera Street.

Tags: KIPP Iluminar Academy , KIPP is Community , Music Education , Positive School Culture

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KIPP LA Alumni Spotlight: Natalie Osuna

Posted Monday, May 22, 2017

KIPP LA Prep alumna, Natalie Osuna, shares her personal experience with a choice-filled life after being accepted to thirteen colleges. Read on to discover which path she chose to pursue. 

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Natalie Osuna, KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory School (KIPP LA Prep) alumna, had a tough decision to make this Spring. Out of 13 college applications, Natalie was accepted to ten schools including Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is the first KIPP LA alumna to be accepted to these prestigious schools.

Natalie first narrowed down her choices by considering her desired career path of architecture. “I absolutely love art and I love mathematics and I love interdisciplinary things so it felt like architecture was the right thing for me,” said Natalie.

The seeds were planted early in school for Natalie’s architectural focus. While attending KIPP LA Prep, Natalie’s favorite subject was math and her favorite teacher was art teacher Mr. Hahn, a KIPP LA Teacher of the Year award winner. During her middle school years, Natalie participated in the KIPP LA signature event, MOKA (Museum of KIPP Art), which is an annual fundraiser featuring amazing artwork and performances by KIPPsters. “The art program at KIPP LA was really awesome. I think MOKA definitely prepared me for speaking with adults, and the art program in general gave me a really good artistic foundation that I probably wouldn’t have had in a traditional public high school.”

Her path to college started at KIPP LA Prep middle school where the academic rigor and supportive teachers laid the foundation for Natalie to succeed in high school. “KIPP was definitely the next step I needed. I feel like by preparing me for high school it prepared me for college and beyond. KIPP was the best middle school for me at the time, and I think it was just really awesome that I was able to go there and receive an excellent education”

Natalie’s multiple college acceptances come as no surprise. KIPP LA teachers realized her potential early on in her academic career. She remembers being called into the principal’s office with her Mom. “In my head, I was running through all the things I could have done wrong. I didn’t remember doing anything bad, and then I learned they were considering skipping me a grade ahead,” she recounted with a smile.  

Natalie credits her KIPP Through College (KTC) counselors with helping her find a college-preparatory high school after they provided information on the A Better Chance scholars program. This program assisted Natalie in her application and acceptance to the prestigious Ojai boarding school, The Thacher School. “If it weren’t for KIPP, I definitely wouldn’t have had the life experiences I’ve had. I wouldn’t be at this amazing high school because I wouldn’t even have been exposed to the option of a boarding school. KIPP is so awesome because exposure is extremely important in breaking the cycle of low-income communities having fewer options.”

Natalie is a first-generation college student, following in the footsteps of her older brother and sister. “I’m definitely proud to be able to do something my Mom was never able to do. School doesn’t feel like a chore to me. If anything, I’m happy to be a first-generation student because I feel like that definitely gives me a different perspective from other students,” she shared.

Although Cornell’s five-year, pre-professional architecture program was her first choice initially, Natalie’s preferences shifted as decision letters rolled in. “Getting into Harvard and MIT kind of changed the game,” admitted Natalie. She made the ultimate decision to attend MIT this Fall. Her KTC counselor also shared several college scholarship opportunities with Natalie, many of which she is eagerly waiting to hear from. Currently, she has received scholarships from MIT.

Next year, Natalie is most looking forward to joining the MIT community. “I felt like from all of my college visits it was the one that was the most fun and I connected with people the most there. That’s ultimately what made me decide to go there because it just felt right in my heart. It’s the right place for me because it’s super nerdy and I loved it,” revealed Natalie. She also wanted an academic environment that would challenge her. “I don’t want to go to a college that is extremely easy. I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something,” she said.

As she prepares for her next step in her higher learning, Natalie hopes that others will be able to have the same opportunities and experiences because of the importance of education, adding “I honestly think education is the most crucial element to bettering our world. It’s so important that we have better education for everyone. Unfortunately, the way it works in the United States is that public schools often times don’t get enough funding. And so with charter schools, especially KIPP LA, supporters have a chance to provide that better education for kids, which is really invaluable because every next generation of kids is going to lead the world.”

The KIPP LA Team and Family wish Natalie the best of luck next year as she continues to climb the mountain to and through college at MIT!

Tags: College , College Acceptance , Graduation , KIPP Alumni , KIPP LA Prep , KIPP Through College , KTC , MOKA

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Financial Planning Tools for Students' Higher Education

Posted Tuesday, May 16, 2017

KIPP LA’s Family Ambassadors and KIPP Through College (KTC) counselors are dedicated to supporting families preparing for college with community events, counseling, and financial planning resources.

Photo Credit: Arpit Mehta

KIPP LA Family Ambassadors Prepare Families for the Future

The KIPP LA Family Ambassadors, a group of dedicated parents of KIPP LA students, recently hosted the KIPP LA Parent Summit: Our Children Are College Bound for families in the LA region preparing for their children’s future college education.

The event was held in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, April 29th and included panels on Parent Choice and Financial Literacy: Saving for College.

LAUSD Board Members Mónica García and Ref Rodriguez welcomed the attendees and spoke of the importance of quality education. Board Member Rodriguez commented on the significance of events like these, sharing that “my own parents expected more of me and made sacrifices, so that I could have a good education. An excellent education is every student’s right. We must continue to fight together to ensure that this right manifests into an everyday reality for our young people.”

Other panelists included Parent Revolution Director of Programming, Mehul Patel. Parent Revolution empowers parents to advocate for a quality education for their children, children in their communities, and for all children. Parent Revolution’s Choice4LA is a free service helping families find great schools for their children. Eugenia Soto of the Youth Policy Institute, a national nonprofit organization targeting anti-poverty and youth related issues, shared her advice on saving for college. Team and Family members of the KIPP Community, including KIPP LA alumni and KTC counselors, were also represented on the panels.

KIPP Through College Counselors Provide College Tuition Resources

Many of the questions raised at the event by families revolved around college tuition payment options and best practices. KIPP LA’s KTC team shared some of their helpful tips and valuable financial resources below.

Helpful Tips for Scholarships and Financial Aid Applications:

  • Students need to make a list of scholarships they would be eligible for as early as possible.
  • Organize all applications by the deadline and collect all necessary materials.
  • Have at least two other people read and review applications, including personal essays.
  • Treat each application with care.
  • Students should apply to as many scholarships as they are eligible for.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

Scholarship Search Databases:

Financial Aid Resources:

And remember, if you are a KIPP LA alum, the KTC counselors are here to help! This year alone, they have advised our KIPPsters in securing scholarships and financial aid for top schools across the country like MIT, Georgetown, Duke, Wellesley, and Smith College.   

KTC Assistance Includes:

  • Support in completing financial aid applications.
  • Application reviews to ensure families are receiving the most money from schools each year.
  • Help to find and apply for scholarships, fellowships, and grants to cover the costs of college.
  • Personalized feedback on scholarship essays.
  • KTC annual Tuition Scholarship.

Juniors in high school should start developing their scholarship and financial aid plans now for next year. Sign up for our email list and visit our KTC Resources for Alumni & Parents page for additional information.

There are over $3 billion in scholarship money available each year. Be sure you are utilizing all available options as you climb the mountain to and through college!

Tags: College , College Access , College Prep , College Readiness , College Scholarships , Education , Financial Planning , KIPP , KIPP Through College

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