An Activist Spirit and the Motivation to Make Things Happen

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This month, beginning with National Charter Schools Week, we will feature stories from charter school graduates from across the country. Check back every day to see a new student feature in our 30 Days of Grad series.

My name is Arlenne Serna, I am a senior at KIPP University Prep in San Antonio, Texas. This May, I will graduate from high school and begin my college career to pursue activism while focusing on international studies, education, and sociology.

I know you might be asking yourself: How is she so sure of her future? And honestly, there was a time when I wasn’t. After my father’s deportation, I was raised in a single parent home. Over the summer, I usually lived with him and there was one year when I attended school in Mexico. Along with every other student there, I was just a number. Teachers didn’t notice if students missed class, and half the time my teachers didn’t show up either. 

Unfortunately, my dad passed away due to diabetes, so I moved back to San Antonio to live with my mother. I came back with no motivation and no character. I wasn't who I am today. I was fortunate enough to have my uncle expose me to KIPP San Antonio Public Schools and my journey at KIPP began during the middle of 7th grade.

From my first day at KIPP, I noticed it was different. We had longer hours, school on Saturdays, and loads of homework. Apart from the rigorous classes and traditional grading, we were also graded on how we handled situations. Without me realizing it, KIPP taught me how to build my character through lessons on optimism, self-control, and curiosity.

KIPP was an environment where we all wanted to be first in our class and we all wanted to go to the best schools out there. It amazed me how my classmates strove for this with certainty, maturity, and discipline. So then I began my own path to college.

I was motivated to do better—to be the best. I understood it wasn’t going to be easy, but here I am today: salutatorian of my class and on my own path to and through college.

KIPP has impacted my life by encouraging me to do my best to positively impact the lives of others. To me this means finding a way to get students genuinely excited about learning. In my opinion, our education system needs to refocus its efforts on learning the identities and interests of students and their cultures - something I’ve experienced daily at KIPP.

I have been encouraged to bring my culture into the classroom rather than leave it at the door, causing me to become a more mindfully present student who feels as though my thoughts and contributions to the class are valuable.

KIPP made me realize that my family's income, my race, and my gender shouldn’t have any bearing on my future success. I know that achieving my goals will not be easy, but I'm confident that what I’ve learned at KIPP will help me.

Dedicated KIPP Through College counselors introduced me to exciting opportunities, such as summer programs at Brown and Stanford, college scholarships, and visits to Texas universities.

In my time with KIPP, I’ve learned to balance academics, service, and extracurricular activities. This past fall I applied to about 20 schools around the country, and I am proud to say I was accepted Early Decision to Brandeis University.

As you might have guessed, at Brandeis, I plan to double major in International Studies and Education, and because of my experience with KIPP, I plan to pursue a career in human rights and educational opportunities for underprivileged children in Central America. Thanks to KIPP and all of my incredible teachers and classmates, I am more motivated than ever to take what I have learned and apply it to helping others.

[Click to Tweet] .@KIPPSATX salutatorian’s education inspired her to improve educational opportunities worldwide #30DaysofGrad

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