Meet KIPP NYC Alumni

Since 1995, the KIPP NYC family has grown… and grown up. Each year, thanks to your support and the hard work of our students and staff, more students make it to – and through – college. Meet a few members of the KIPP NYC family below.

Raquel Warner

My teachers helped me to believe in myself. I don’t know if I’d feel that way in another school.

Raquel Warner – Class of 2017

Raquel started her time with KIPP NYC eight years ago in middle school. As part of KIPP NYC College Prep’s founding class, which graduated in June 2013. Raquel is currently attending SUNY Oswego.

Though it all, she’s been challenged and supported by KIPP teachers, who encouraged her to learn, and try, new things. “The assignments were much harder and the teachers expected more,” she recalls of her first days at KIPP. But she said she knew those teachers really cared, made themselves available day and night — and that made all the difference. “They’d come back to you again and again if you didn’t understand.”

That bond with teachers helped Raquel break through and overcome obstacles, like when she told her speech teacher she was having trouble with public speaking. “He encouraged me,” she said. “He gave me suggestions, and I began thinking of myself in a different way.”

In 9th grade, her global studies teacher encouraged her to apply for KIPP’s first-ever international trip—to China. She and 17 other students spent an eye-opening 10 days there at the end of the school year. “It changed me,” she said. “I learned I should be grateful for what I have because others don’t. We met other school kids and learned about each other.”

After eight years with KIPP NYC, Raquel has a clear, confident picture of her future: “Now I know I can do anything I set out to do, if I put my mind to it,” she said. “My teachers helped me to believe in myself. I don’t know if I’d feel that way in another school.”


Without KIPP’s help, I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to do what I’m doing now. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible.

Dan Castillo: KIPP Alumnus

When he graduated from KIPP Academy middle school in 2001 Dan Castillo looked back with pride. The South Bronx native had been embraced by teachers who cared deeply and gave students hours of individual attention: “It wasn’t just a job for them. It was a passion,” he said. “They had a goal for us – to go to college. And they remembered that every minute that they were in the classroom.”

What Castillo couldn’t have known at the time was that KIPP would continue to play a crucial role in his education, and even help him land his first job.

After middle school, KIPP staff helped him get into Northfield Mount Herman, a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts. Four years later, a former KIPP teacher encouraged him to apply to Colgate. “I was not going to do it all,” he recalled, “and she said, ‘You know what, just apply, just in case.’ And they gave me almost a full scholarship.”

As an economics and political science major, when it came time for Dan to look for his first job, he benefitted once again from his KIPP connection. He got an internship to help finance and develop a Harlem charter school, and caught the eye of a staffer who had worked in the finance sector. The administrator – who now works with KIPP – helped him land his first job. Today, Dan is an associate on the bank’s trading desk in global financial markets. Without KIPP’s help, he said, “I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to do what I’m doing now. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible.”

You never realize how difficult teaching is until you have people in front of you who are waiting to learn. And those kids were hungry to learn.”

Laura Reyes: KIPP Alumna and KIPP Teacher

There is nothing more exciting than seeing our students return to KIPP as teachers, doing their part to build a better tomorrow. Laura Reyes teaches Math at KIPP Academy middle school, the same school where Frank Corcoran and KIPP co-founder Dave Levin first taught her in 1996. After graduating from Binghamton University, Laura started her journey back to the classroom when she was accepted into Teach for America. She was as in awe of her first class of students as they were of her. ”You never realize how difficult teaching is until you have people in front of you who are waiting to learn. And those kids were hungry to learn.”

Two years later, Laura was encouraged to come back to KIPP by Frank Corcoran, her former math teacher and now current principal, who vowed not to leave the classroom until one of his own students came back to take over. Looking back, Reyes says her experiences as a KIPP student shaped who she is as a teacher. In the early days, there was a tiny storage closet that functioned as one-part storage, one-part computer lab, and one-part principal’s office where Dave Levin would meet with families. KIPP made it work despite the tight space. “I always felt that closet was a metaphor for what KIPP was like,” she says. “No matter the restrictions that we had, we were going to make it work. It’s just like our motto, if there’s a problem, we will find a solution.”

Going to KIPP set me on a different path… I couldn’t wait to go to school every day.”

Shannel Dewitt: KIPP Alumna and Parent

Like mother, like daughter.

Bernadette Dewitt had a dream that her daughter, Shannel, could thrive in a caring, structured school. The dream came true in 1996, when she enrolled Shannel in KIPP NYC’s first-ever middle school. Years later Shannel had the same high hopes when she placed her own daughter, Bryanna, in KIPP NYC’s first elementary school. “Going to KIPP set me on a different path,” said Shannel. “I looked at learning differently because of them. I always liked going to school, but KIPP made me love it.”

Today, Shannel is a proud parent, working two jobs –determined to make a better life for her own daughter Bryanna. In 2009, Shannel entered her daughter into the lottery for a coveted spot at KIPP’s first elementary school. Bryanna won one of 92 spots and entered the school’s founding class – just like Shannel did at KIPP Academy 16 years ago. “It was a dream come true!” she says, elated at her daughter’s progress. “She’ll go much farther in life than me. She’ll be part of KIPP for 12 years, from the very beginning through high school.”

Shannel is certain that her mother, who passed away three years ago, would approve: “She’s the reason both of us went to KIPP, and her dream lives on in me and my daughter.”