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In February, Associates III was invited to speak about the interior design profession at KIPP’s Denver Collegiate High School Career Night. Debbie and I volunteered to attend. The 109 national, open-enrollment public schools known as KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) assist kids living in disadvantaged communities by leading them to a successful college career and life. With 87% of its students hailing from low-income families, it’s remarkable to observe that over 90% of KIPP middle school students graduate high school, and more than 80% of their alumni enroll in college. Students, teachers, and parents pledge a Commitment of Excellence with the motto, “Work hard. Be nice.” Love it! Classes are scheduled from 7:25am to 5pm, and all students are required attend class in the summer. KIPP relentlessly tracks the results of their efforts, which prove quite impressive: 96% of KIPP classes outperform their districts and 100% of KIPP senior classes outperform their district-wide average SAT and ACT test scores.

KIPP ClassroomDuring career night, we had about 7 minutes between the two of us to talk about Associates III to a rotating class of students. Naturally, the entire set of dazzling facts I had prepared flew out of my head before I opened my mouth. Instead of sharing how employment in interior design is expected to grow 19% from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average of all other occupations (National Bureau of Labor Statistics), I scrambled to compact my past, my college career, and my job description into 3.5 minutes. It didn’t sound far from “Thought I’d be an engineer… but found myself sensitive to interior environments…decided interior design…college…green design is good…internship…talk with clients…write specs…school is valuable…stay in it.” Apart from teaching me programs like AutoCAD and how to effectively space plan and think like a designer, school was a great experience that simply rounded me out.

Recently, I was listening to a debate on NPR where the topic was “Too Many Kids Go to College”. One of the debaters for the notion argued that not everyone strives to be a lawyer or doctor and, therefore, they should not have to pay college loans; in addition, specialized trades like carpentry will suffer if everyone chooses college. For me, college wasn’t just a pathway to a career, but an opportunity to acquaint myself with the different topics of the world (microeconomics, history of textiles, animal biology, to name but a few) that I would never have had the patience or time to discover on my own. You might consider college a starter kit to exploring the world! In the end, it was wonderful to see how KIPP pushes their students toward college and opens their minds and hearts to the many wonderful opportunities out there… I hope a little of my rambling helped.

— Agatha Strompolos

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