Kenya Wilson is in her first year as a school leader at KIPP DC WILL Academy, but brings a wealth of knowledge, skills, and most of all passion to supporting the students, staff, and families of her school community. She joined KIPP DC in 2016 as a dean of instruction after four years inside the classroom as a math teacher and eight in school leadership. “I definitely didn’t have a soft start in education,” she said. “It was get in and go. I remember having one day to learn from the teacher I was taking over for and just having to figure things out. But, to this day, I think that’s why I’m not afraid of taking on new challenges because, from day one, I was groomed to have to think and learn.”
She initially wanted to pursue a career as an actuary after graduating from St. Marys College of Maryland with a degree in mathematics. However, the decision to pursue a career in education and help address the issues students, particularly black and brown students, face was personal after experiencing the struggles of a close family member with the education system.
“I know first-hand what it means when you don’t have the right school experience or the right people supporting you. I know what implications that can have on our students’ futures. I can’t let that happen to the students we’re responsible for educating. So for me, this is about helping to change lives and making sure they have choices in life.” Inside the classrooms at WILL Academy are more than 300 scholars that are celebrated as a readers, writers, mathematicians, thinkers, and growing human beings, supported by a staff committed to their success as the leaders of tomorrow.
“We’re driven to be the best we can be because our students deserve it. We want to be a Tier 1 school, not because of the recognition, but for no other reason than we want our students and families to know they made the right choice in us. Building relationships is the foundation of this work because we push them hard and want them to know they are valued, loved, and heard.”
In characterizing the staff culture in her first year as WILL Academy’s school leader, Ms. Wilson points to this year’s theme of “Turning Over a New Leaf.” Meaning not being tied to old habits in the spirit of innovation and trying out new things to be at their best for students.
“I love how we push each other. We have lofty goals, and we’re all committed to them. I never feel like I’m the only person in the building talking about the work we need to do to achieve what we set out to accomplish. As principal, I put the message and the vision out there, but it’s always refreshing to see how we all move towards the same goal.”
When not managing the day-to-day responsibilities of leading a school, Kenya keeps simple hobbies of shopping and catching up with friends outside of work. Inside, she’s a poised and steadying influence on the students and staff at WILL Academy.