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Building Opportunity: AJ's Kairos Story




My name is Ajon Billups and I go by AJ. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about my experience at Kairos.


When I think about why my time at Kairos has been so important, one word comes to my mind…opportunity.


Kairos is located very close to my neighborhood, Dutchtown. I’ve lived in south city for most of my life and when I look around, it’s crazy how much circumstances can change depending on your neighborhood or even your block.


I see a lot of places that look forgotten…like nobody cares about them. Too many people don’t see or feel opportunity. And if they did see it, too many wouldn’t know what to do with it. I see people stuck doing the same things over and over again.


But Kairos has given me so many opportunities.


A black high school student speaks to a crowd of supporters.
Ajon addresses guests at Kairos' first-annual fundraising gala

The work I do in class gives me the opportunity to ask questions and really understand the “why” of what we’re learning. Our projects give me the opportunity to work at my own pace–so that I’m always engaged and never sitting around, bored, waiting for something to do. When I find something I’m really interested in, I can always explore deeper and ask more questions.


My school community gives me the opportunity to just be myself. I’ve met so many people who are different from me from all across south city that I never would've met on my own. I love being at a school where people are so relaxed–and are more interested in being themselves than being popular or fitting in with others.


My teachers and mentors give me the opportunity to be the best version of myself. They constantly ask me about who I am, who I want to be, and how I could get there. They’ve taught me how to set goals and why it’s important to be thinking about how my choices add up to my accomplishments. My teachers’ questions can be really challenging, but they make me feel appreciated–like I have this whole team standing behind me, cheering for me…because I do.


Finally, my school gives me the opportunity to really plan for my future. The weekly trips we take to colleges, jobsites, training programs, have shown me opportunities I didn’t even know about. I’ve discovered I’m really interested in marketing and real estate–and now I’m building a plan to be ready after high school.


Once I graduate from Kairos, my ultimate goal is to be financially stable so that I can share opportunities with others–including my mom, who is here tonight. She is the most important person in my life because of how much she’s sacrificed for me. She’s worked multiple jobs, being an electrician and running paper routes–she does everything she can to make sure I have the opportunity to be whoever I want to be.


A black woman and her son embrace for a photo
Ajon and his mom, Ramelda

I have my whole life ahead of me and Kairos has challenged me–and so many other St. Louis students–to ask questions, to set goals, and to show up with authenticity and excellence. I’m thankful for the opportunities the Kairos community has given me and I’m especially thankful that you’ve come to support Kairos tonight.


My name is Ajon Billups, and I’m a rising Kairos 11th Grader. I am going to create financial sustainability for myself and my family, and I’m going to make other people’s lives better.




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