MilliporeSigma Partnership Spotlight: KIPP St. Louis

MilliporeSigma Partnership Spotlight: KIPP St. Louis

Photo Credit: KIPP St. Louis

Photo Credit: KIPP St. Louis

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.@MilliporeSigma sat down with @kagarrett88, executive director of @KIPPSTL, to highlight how the organization is changing the trajectory of students’ lives in St. Louis. Check out the partnership spotlight on KIPP St. Louis:
Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - 9:15am

CAMPAIGN: Employee and Community Engagement

CONTENT: Article

For more than eight years, we have partnered with KIPP St. Louis, a public charter school in St. Louis that primarily serves students living below the poverty line. We have helped expand the capacity of the organization’s middle school science program, increasing access to science equipment and exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. In addition, our employees donate their time and expertise, providing students with hands-on science education experiences through our Curiosity Labs™ and Curiosity Cube® programs, as well as insight into science-based careers for students. We are now helping KIPP St. Louis improve science lab infrastructure and continuing to expand the capacity of its middle school science program.

We sat down with Kelly Garrett, executive director of KIPP St. Louis, to highlight how the organization is changing the trajectory of local students’ lives.

1. Please explain what KIPP St. Louis does and its mission.

KIPP St. Louis is a public charter school district with six high-performing schools serving students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Our 2,700 students come from every zip code in the city, and our goal is to help them develop the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to succeed throughout their schooling and in the competitive world beyond. Our mission truly describes the responsibility to our students that we live each day: Together with families and communities, we create joyful, academically excellent schools that prepare students with the skills and confidence to pursue the paths they choose—college, career and beyond—so they can lead fulfilling lives and build a more just world.

2. Tell us about your role at KIPP St. Louis.

I’m the executive director, which is similar to being the superintendent in a traditional school district. I’m responsible for the performance of the entire district, and answerable to the board of directors as well as to our families.

3. What is the reach and impact of KIPP St. Louis?

We opened our doors in 2009 with a class of 72 fifth-grade students. Those first students are now about to graduate from college. Our commitment to providing our students with a world-class education is borne out by the data: In the last state achievement tests administered, our eighth-grade students ranked above statewide averages in all areas. As we’ve grown, thousands of KIPP students have been part of our Team & Family, but our KIPP community extends further than that. In our 11 years in St. Louis, we’ve worked to make the neighborhoods where our schools are located safer and more stable by building partnerships with our neighbors. We welcome and encourage input from our students’ families, and rely on them as volunteers, advisors and ambassadors. Our vision is that every child grows up free to create the future they want for themselves and their communities, and we’re committed to becoming an anti-racist and anti-sexist organization by confronting inequities, barriers, and oppressive policies and systems. This gives us a responsibility to our students and their families, that KIPP will be a partner in creating both a learning environment and a community in which our students’ aspirations can be realized. KIPP in St. Louis, as well as across the nation, has demonstrated that all students can achieve at the highest levels when given the right environments for learning.

4. How has exposure to hands-on science experiences impacted students?

KIPP students love science! Beginning in kindergarten, our students study science by learning how plants grow, and observing the weather and the world around them. As they learn about the world, they learn rudiments of chemistry, astronomy, geology and more. By middle school, our students are able to participate in lab experiments—we have MilliporeSigma to thank for helping us redesign our science classrooms to install wet labs in KIPP Triumph Academy, our middle school in north St. Louis, near O’Fallon Park. The bottom line is that in a traditional classroom, science is a book study. The MilliporeSigma team has helped turn science into an active, hands-on classroom where science is alive. Students are motivated to both learn science and more likely to pursue careers in science.

5. Why is KIPP St. Louis continuing to expand the capacity of its middle school program?

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that every student—every person—needs to be skilled at navigating a technologically and scientifically complex world. Students must have the access to science and technology education, in order to pursue the paths they choose as adults. And, technology needs to be widespread, so that students from all demographics have equal access. We have used computer-based learning as a cornerstone of our STEM programs, and will continue to augment and improve our middle school science programs, so that by the time these students enter high school, they have the foundation in science to make informed choices about their futures.

6. What is one skill you think is valuable to have when working in the nonprofit sector?

A relentless focus on outcomes is key. When the nonprofit sector is at its best, it is applying best practice business skills and delivering a return on investment (ROI). To me, this requires persistent pursuit of your goals, as our outcomes typically measure a social ROI, which can be less objective than a financial ROI, but equally important. To define your objective, accomplish measurable impact, and continue to achieve your vision year after year are a nonprofit’s most vital ingredients to success.

7. How has MilliporeSigma’s partnership with KIPP St. Louis supported the organization’s mission?

MilliporeSigma has provided amazing financial support to KIPP St. Louis, making it possible for us to continue to expand and improve our science curriculum, but that’s only part of the story. MilliporeSigma’s Curiosity Cube® mobile science lab visits to our middle schools have been an annual highlight for our students, truly helping them to experience the joy of scientific discovery. During the years that we’ve worked together, MilliporeSigma scientists have been guest teachers in our classrooms. Since the pandemic, the company has worked with us to explore new ways to reach students with resources they can access remotely. This list doesn’t do justice to the depth of involvement and support that MilliporeSigma has provided to our KIPP St. Louis community. Most importantly, the partnership has established powerful relationships that make KIPP stronger through improved scientific programming, and hopefully make MilliporeSigma stronger through deeper understanding of our community’s needs and ultimately building a pipeline of talent for our region’s future.

8. What has been the most rewarding part of your role at KIPP St. Louis?

I entered the field of education because of my passion for creating fabulous learning environments with children. The experience of supporting and observing children making academic breakthroughs is incredibly motivating. As I have been in the field for a few years, it is also a tremendous reward to hear from those students years later whose paths were positively impacted by this work. I’ve been hooked since my first day in the classroom and continue to get great energy from our students. 

9. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I can recall the very first time I met members of the MilliporeSigma (then Sigma-Aldrich) team. I admit I had to Google them and try to learn what MilliporeSigma did. But, I remember immediately feeling a deep connection and a shared understanding for what could have an impact on the lives of children from educationally underserved communities. The partnership quickly became a friendship, and to this day, is proving to drive improved educational outcomes for children in St. Louis. Thank you, MilliporeSigma.

CATEGORY: Education