(IAP ’17) Yazmin Guzman, ’18

Yazmin Guzman (’18, Urban Studies and Planning) 

Yazmin will spend IAP in New York City, where she will be collaborating with KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Washington Heights to support and evaluate the pilot of a new English Language Learner reading intervention software. Yazmin will work closely with the ELL teacher to support the roll out of the software in intervention groups, help troubleshoot roadblocks and evaluate the efficacy of the pilot.

Check back for her updates!

Week 4: The End But Maybe a Beginning, February 7, 2017

Overall, my project was meant to help improve the physical welcoming environment of the school. I was able to create content for rooms and help teachers in their classroom. Below is a picture of one room where I helped make a “quilt” based on student work and placed pictures across the classroom with prominent Black leaders and quotes. But I was also able to get to know the students and teachers that made up the larger community.


The night before my last day at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School I had trouble sleeping. I did not want this experience to end. In 4 short weeks I fell in love with the school. Though my initial project was to help teachers make the physical exterior more welcoming, I learned much more from the teachers and students at the school.

The week before I left I had conversations about my future and the future of education with several teachers and leaders in the school. One conversation in particular struck me as inspiring. She told me the story of her journey to teaching. Originally, her intention was to be a lawyer, but as she spoke to more teachers, they told her about the lack of diversity in teaching. She realized the importance of teacher diversity. She told me that every day she wakes up excited to come to school. She loves seeing the students figure out a concept. She urged me to follow my passion. I am passionate about helping people. And I am passionate about education. Though I may not know where exactly my passion will take me, I know that the experiences I collect will be invaluable. The talk simply reignited my passion to help students.

 I also learned about the importance of leadership in a school. The teachers are always striving to do their best. KIPP WHMS fostered an environment that continued to push its teachers. The school ran well because of passion and leadership. Through multiple conversations the staff indicated their admiration for their leaders. I hope to pull my knowledge from these discussions to inform my future in education. Who knows, perhaps I will one day open my own school!

 My favorite part of the experience was working with the kids and seeing the relationship between the teachers and the students. Below the students are affirming their grades and aspirations for an upcoming the test. They seem excited to push themselves and believe they can do it.



This exact experience might be over, but I have not doubt that my path in education is not over. I will continue to strive to help students throughout my life because that is my passion.

Week 2-3: Aesthetics, Welcoming, Community, What it’s all about! January 24, 2017

My project initially had two components: to help improve the aesthetics of the school by making it more welcoming and to help evaluate a new ELL curriculum. Unfortunately, I was not able to work on the second project. Since that was the case, I decided to reevaluate what I wanted to do to help on top of my aesthetics project.

I had a three goals coming into my PKG project:

  • To help KIPP Washington Heights in their daily operations and through my project
  • To learn about the charter school system in New York
  • To learn about how he school itself runs

In terms of aesthetics project, I was able to get the project rolling. Below is a picture of a giant periodic table I am working on in a 5th grade Science classroom.  All that I need now is to make a beautiful title. I also helped to put up student progress posters in 5th grade Math. And I am currently working with the 6th Grade Science teacher to create posters for her classroom.


Aesthetics and a welcoming space are important aspects of the school, but I wanted to spend this blog post talking more about the community within the school.

As I am starting to pick up a daily routine and observe the staff and teachers more, I’ve come to realize the special feeling surrounding KIPP Washington Heights. There is a friendliness and camaraderie among the teachers, and a willingness to improve. The students feel comfortable with the teachers and there is an air of respect.

I’ve also gotten to see the role of after school programs in the creation of a community. Students participate in different after school activities that are all under one program: Beyond Z. One Friday when Ms. Lee, my supervisor, was gone, I was able to see Office Club in action. Office Club is a group of students who help around the office, as one would assume. When I participated, it was clear that the older students had gained some leadership from the club. They gathered everyone and were already distributing tasks to help me out on my first day. In other classrooms older students help tutor younger students under their own supervision. These students, while I assume being only 13, are taking leadership roles to improve their school community. And the students see this leadership in the adults around them.

Below is a picture of the Rosemary (the KIPP Washington Heights Advocacy Director, second from the left) speaking at a charter school rally. Although she confessed she was nervous and had never spoken at a rally before, she believed in KIPP and it’s mission and wanted to fight for her children and for all the children who want a better education.


Aesthetics is just one part of the entire community at KIPP Washington Heights. Aesthetics helps create a welcoming atmosphere and a space that is comfortable and fun to learn in. However, it is the people in the school that create the entirety of the community and a space where children want to be.  I hope to learn more about how they created the community in the weeks to come.


Week 1: Arriving at KIPP Washington Heights in New York City, January 10, 2017

Hi! My name is Yazmin and I am a junior at MIT. I am currently studying Urban Studies and Planning with and emphasis on Education and Housing. This January I will be working at KIPP Washington Heights, a charter middle school (grades 4-8) in New York City. KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) is a national charter that works with minority and low-income students to give them the best education possible. KIPP Washington Heights is no exception: 97% of students are underrepresented minorities and 93% are on free or reduced lunches.

From January 9th to February 3rd, I will be working with Cindy Lee, the Director of Operations of the School, to assess a new English Language Learner (ELL) curriculum. I will also design and pilot a space walkthrough checklist of the physical aesthetics of the school. I hope that I am able to contribute to the overall aspects of the schools as well as work directly with teachers to really learn how a school runs.

I chose to work on this project because I have always felt that a great education is an essential stepping-stone for success. However, too often people are denied access to a good school. The United States is becoming increasingly diverse; this incudes an influx of immigrants coming to America. Immigrants often do not know English. In this day and age it is imperative to know English and do well in school to thrive afterword. We need to ensure that ELL students have access to good curriculum that prepares them to do well beyond school. This includes conducting research on the curriculum to see how well it is working. I hope to ensure that the curriculum is good for the students and find ways to improve it. It is also important to serve our students and an environment that promotes learning, several factors of the schools structure affect how children will behave and what they will achieve. I hope that by taking a few of these steps now, I will be able to make affect KIPP Washington Heights.

Once I graduate from MIT I hope to work in the public school system. Since charter schools are a current method being used to equalize access, I would like to learn more about the charter environment as well as help. I’ve been unsure about what exactly I want to do with my work in the public school system. There are so many ways to approach change and development. I am hoping I will be able to gain some insight into how the charter systems work in this specific urban environment.

I also have a few concerns as well. First I worry about the impact I can make in a few short weeks. I am unsure about the amount I can assess. Program evaluation can take a long time depending on the program. I want to make sure that I do as much as I can in the little time allotted. It will also be a completely new environment for me; I will be at a school all day. Although I have volunteered at schools, it has not been to this extent. I will have to adjust to the way the school runs and its community.

Despite all these concerns, I am excited for what will come this month! I hope to learn a lot as well as help out in the school!

Below is a picture of my first day in a classroom! Hopefully the rest of the days go as great as the first!



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