Tipping the Scales

by Caitlyn D’Agati ’15

As a college adviser at the KIPP Delta Public School in Helena, Ark., Shavonne Ward ’09 says that she values each of her students so much that if it were possible, she’d put a photo of every one of them in her wallet. “The problem of course, is that they would overflow to the ground,” she says. KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, works to offer all children the opportunity to prepare and get into college, no matter their family, economic or geographic situation.

Growing up, Ward attended a KIPP middle school in the Bronx, N.Y. and was taught by Teach for America (TFA) corps members. After graduation from William Smith, TFA accepted her into their program and sent her to Arkansas to teach in a KIPP school. Ward was thrilled to be giving back in a way so meaningful to her personally.

“My teachers worked with me individually and truly invested in me as a student and as a person,” she says of her KIPP teachers. “My educators, including professors at Hobart and William Smith, valued me as a student and not just another test score. This both triggered and enabled my passion to impact children from a new generation,” says Ward, who graduated with a degree in psychology along with minors in child advocacy and peer education in human relations.

Ward makes sure the idea of going to college is emphasized to her students every single day. “I can’t tell you what it means to hear time and time again from families, ‘We believe in you’ and ‘Thank you for what you’re doing for my child.’ I was supposed to be at KIPP for two years through Teach for America, and now I’ve been here four. I see what a difference it is making,” says Ward.

During her time at HWS, Ward participated in the America Reads program, volunteered in schools in North Carolina through the HWS alternative spring break program, and was elected Student Trustee. For Ward, paying it forward means recreating the profound affect her educators had on her in the lives of her students. “If I could do that for someone else, that will make my dream of paying it forward to the educators that have done so much for me, come true,” she says. “Never misconstrue the impact educators can have on just one child and the outcome it may have on a much broader scale.”


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.