A bountiful breakfast and floral centerpieces set atop black linen tablecloths were the first indications of the importance of the occasion where a distinguished list of faculty, staff, students, volunteers and stakeholders had gathered at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School (KAC).
Over the last two years, the school has been diligently cultivating its engagement efforts to provide important support services to its students’ families. On May 9, that hard work was recognized by Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, Richard Woods.
The recognition symbolized KAC’s accomplishment of completing the Family-Friendly Partnership School Professional Development Program, a two-year process supported by the Georgia Department of Education that provides professional development and training to support the school’s efforts in presenting a welcoming environment for families.
At the center of these efforts is Vernetta Nuriddin, the Regional Family Engagement Specialist for KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. Her passion for families made her the perfect guide to walk the attendees through the objectives and victories of KAC’s Family-Friendly Engagement Program.
“The ultimate goals of our family engagement efforts are to empower our families to think critically, be positive and productive in communicating with our faculty and staff, and to be effective partners in the education of our scholars,” said Nuriddin.
The value KAC places on partnership extends far beyond its campus walls. A concerted effort has been made or expended for KAC to serve as an epicenter for wellbeing, not only for the students and their families, but the surrounding community as well.
“KIPP is really trying to go back to the old purpose of a school,” said Arthur Washington, Principal of KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School. “Being from Atlanta where everything went through the schoolhouse, we are trying to bring that feel back to the City of Atlanta because we know how important the school is in the community. That’s what we try to live every day.”
This community mandate inspired the creation of the KAC Food Pantry, an initiative that achieved a service reach of more than 2600 households in one school year, which earned it the Atlanta Community Food Bank Hunger Hero Award in 2019.
In addition, the KAC Capstone Project Home Team was created to support families wanting to remain virtual for the 2021 school year whose scholars were failing three or more classes by the end of the first quarter.
Outreach efforts like these, coupled with the completion of several improvement projects on campus grounds, are just a few of the reasons KAC earned accolades from Superintendent Woods and the distinction of becoming a Family-Friendly Partnership School.
“One of the things that I found out looking at [this program] is the importance of family connections,” said Woods. “This is a family affair in every sense of the word.”
Just before the culmination of the event several KAC student ambassadors escorted Superintendent Woods and a small company of participants throughout the campus for a Welcoming Environment School Tour.
The destinations included visits to the classrooms of Math educator Joia Colbert and Science educator J. Cooke to observe students in their learning environment. In addition, a special visit to the parent liaison and engagement room was made, as well as a stop by the Dr. Desiree Glover Courtyard and the recently renovated gymnasium.
Superintendent Woods continued to extend his congratulations to KAC regarding the totality of its efforts and complimented the faculty and staff for their commitment to giving students the total package of offerings, including their arts program, parent room and front office personnel.
“They set the tone; everyone is important,” said Woods, just before he presented Washington and Nuriddin with a commemorative silver plate on behalf of the Georgia Department of Education.
As key individuals from the audience gathered collectively to capture the memory, it was clear that the distinction and honor of being a Family-Friendly Partnership School took dedication and collaboration from all involved.
“It was a team effort from the KIPP faculty and staff who all worked together to support families,” said Nuriddin. “[It is] definitely not a one person job at all.”