PHILADELPHIA -- It was for students such as Chevon Boone that dignitaries from the KIPP Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania gathered Oct. 2 to celebrate the establishment of a new partnership.
Boone, a Penn senior from a tiny town in northeastern North Carolina, was in the Knowledge Is Power Program’s first class established there, in what became her first step to securing an Ivy League education. KIPP is a national network of schools that helps to prepare students in underserved communities for success in college. This new partnership with Penn is KIPP’s first with an Ivy League university.
Making it all possible were Martha and Bruce Karsh of Los Angeles, whose donation of $2.5 million provides Penn with new resources to recruit KIPP students, underwrite their financial aid and offer them targeted support once they get to campus.
"Making a Penn education available to talented, hard-working students from every walk of life is the cornerstone of our efforts to increase educational access," Penn President Amy Gutmann said. "A partnership between Penn and KIPP is a natural fit, and we could not be more supportive of KIPP's mission to prepare and help enable students in underserved communities to reach their highest potential."
KIPP’s Mike Feinberg is an alumnus of the Penn Class of 1991. He founded KIPP with Dave Levin in Houston in 1994.
“As a Penn alum, I am truly proud to partner with my alma mater to help get our KIPP students to and through college,” Feinberg said. “Penn has long been a leader in promoting both diversity and excellence in higher education. With this commitment, our KIPPsters will have yet another reason to continue to work hard and dream big.”
“We support KIPP’s initiative to form a partnership with Penn, and so we decided to support it with a scholarship,” Martha Karsh said. “Penn’s focus is aligned with a lot of things we care about; Amy Gutmann has focused on diversity and underserved students for a long time. This seemed a perfect direction to go. ”
The Karshes are attorneys who formed the Karsh Family charitable foundation in 1998 and made large gifts to a number of colleges and universities, including Penn where two of their children are alumni. They later began to focus on public K-12 education where she said they saw so much dysfunction. Through friends, she learned of the KIPP Academy of Opportunity in Los Angeles.
“It was the exact opposite,” she said, noting that she soon joined its board.
Karsh now serves on KIPP’s national board.
Support is a key factor in KIPP students’ success. Penn is already home to a handful of KIPP students, including Boone, who said they all try to stay in contact.
Also, Feinberg visits them on campus each year.
“He takes all the KIPP students at Penn out to dinner to see how we're doing, to see if there’s anything we need.”
Boone said at first she was a little intimidated coming to a school she described as “one of the most prestigious, selective schools. Then there’s just little old me.”
However, she was awarded a full Leonore Annenberg Scholarship that supported her four years at Penn.
“With that, there was nothing stopping me from attending.”
Each year, beginning in 2013-14, Penn plans to enroll 12-15 KIPP students who meet admissions requirements, forming an even larger community who will support each other through college.
Partnering with KIPP, said Eric J. Furda, dean of admissions, will help the University “learn about what it takes to help support students who have the talent and motivation but are coming from backgrounds that are perhaps disadvantaged in certain ways. We welcome these bright, goal-oriented students to Penn.”
“It’s unbelievably gratifying to us to give someone who’s long on potential but short on money the means to live a life of fulfillment,” Karsh said. “These are amazing kids, kids who will not only achieve personal achievement but contribute to the greater society.”