Giving D.C. Students the Learning Environment They Deserve

Oct 31, 2011

Washington, D.C. is a diverse city—both ethnically and socioeconomically. The laws of our country are debated by Ivy League–educated Members of Congress, just blocks from where low–income families struggle to put food on the table. For many of D.C.’s public school students, their parents didn’t have the opportunity or privilege to attend and graduate from college—and, frankly, it was never expected. Fortunately, there are programs in our nation’s capital that are changing that mind-set and affording the students of tomorrow with opportunities to achieve their dreams, attend college, and build a better life for themselves.

In 2001, Susan Schaeffler, a teacher frustrated by the bureaucracy of the school system and determined to improve college readiness and access east of the Anacostia River, recruited 80 fifth graders to join her newly established KEY Academy, the first school in the education program known as KIPP DC.

KIPP stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program—an idea that knowledge really gives someone the power to be successful in life. KIPP DC is a charter school that focuses on getting kids to and through college. One of the main features of the school is longer classroom times, allowing D.C. kids to learn more in that extra time and be prepared for the next step.

The success of the KEY Academy brought with it the demand for an environment that the students deserved. In 2008, as Schaeffler began her search for the proper building, there was lots of anxiety about lending, but Bank of America helped secure a $24 million loan.

“With that support we were able to fully renovate a building that was falling apart and now it has the ability to service 1,500 students,” said Susan Schaeffler, Founder and CEO of KIPP DC.

Now that KIPP DC has rehabilitated and preserved its largest campus, it can now grow its schools to capacity and enroll an additional 800 students by 2015. These students will have the benefit of a college preparatory curriculum that will likely improve their current performance — and their future prospects.

“It was really a natural fit for us to step in and assist KIPP in 2008,” said Brian Tracey, Manager of Community Development, Lending and Investment with Bank of America. “It’s really inspirational to see little kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up. That’s what brings it home for us at Bank of America.

"We live here, we’re parents, we have kids. To help a school like KIPP DC, that’s very meaningful.”

“If we can educate a community well and provide the education our children deserve,” continued Schaeffler, “we can see a reduction in teen pregnancies, drug abuse and domestic violence. That is going to change the face of this community.”

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At a time when lending wasn’t being done as much…[the bank] helped us secure a $24,000,000 loan. With that support we were able to fully renovate a building that was falling apart and now it has the ability to serve 1,500 students.

Susan Schaeffler
Executive Director, KIPP DC