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She credits the habits of mind and encouragement she received in middle school, and the contacts she maintains five years later with KIPP teachers and administrators, for propelling her forward. I’m more focused on my classes and what I want to accomplish. Her delivery communicates not hope or aspiration but conviction.

“Nothing is going to keep me from graduating,” she insists, adding for emphasis, “nothing.” Mercado’s story—both her struggle and her determination— will be repeated over the next several years on college campuses across the U. At one level, she’s just one more kid trying to pass biology, graduate, and make something of herself.

The bar has been set not by its critics but by KIPP itself: if KIPP and other No Excuses schools are to fulfill their promise as game changers in American education, and rewrite the script on reaching and teaching underserved kids, their graduates must not merely be accepted to college; they must demonstrate success once they get there.

KIPP has identified a number of factors it believes are critical to raising its students’ college-completion rates, including enhanced academic preparedness; a set of “character strengths,” like “grit,” self-control, and optimism; matching each student with the right college; social and academic integration once they arrive on campus; and college affordability.

KIPP’s rapidly growing “KIPP Through College” program offers support programs and services stretching from middle school through college and beyond, including high school and college placement, financial literacy, mentorships, college and career advisement, and one-to-one support from some of the 100 full-time KIPP staff doing college counseling and support work throughout its network.

KIPP’s recipe for getting students “to and through college” is about to be put to the test, if not quite at scale then in unprecedented numbers.


Perhaps as a result, she was “a little more cocky than I should have been” when arriving on campus for freshman year.Classrooms and halls are awash in motivational quotations and college banners, typically from the alma maters of the inevitably young, hard-charging teachers who staff the schools.The signature feature is high behavioral and academic expectations for all students, the vast majority of whom are low-income, urban black and Hispanic kids.Here’s another one: statistically speaking, Mercado might have been voted “Least Likely to Succeed” at birth.


Low-income black and Hispanic students are by far the least likely U. students to graduate from high school and attend a four-year college.Like many freshmen, Mercado experienced the distraction of being on her own for the first time, which took a toll on her grades.


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