February 13, 2024 | By Dr. Khalil Graham
It’s official. Last week the Missouri State Board of Education voted to affirm our sponsor’s decision to renew the Kairos Academies charter for five years. This milestone is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and collaborative spirit of our entire school community - students, parents, teachers, staff, and supporters alike.
Technically, this renewal means we have permission to operate for an additional 5 years and continue to fully grow out our schools to become a full 5th-12th grade middle and high school. Additionally, it allows us to think long-term about our bold vision to transform opportunities for young people and create systemic change in our region.
As we look ahead, it’s helpful to reflect on how we got here. To capture Kairos’ amazing journey from a big idea to a thriving school serving hundreds of students, I want to tell the story of one student who has been here since the beginning.
Indica McLain’s story is a reminder that the most powerful part of a school isn’t its facility or its curriculum, its technology or even its mission. What makes a school special are the relationships formed between educators and students. Our community will be the first to tell you: Kairos is a place where those relationships are special. We feel proud of that culture, and we’re excited that last week’s renewal vote means that we can continue building those connections for our students.
In her early elementary years, Indica lived in an all-white town on the outskirts of St. Louis and experienced the kind of very direct and very painful racism that we all wish was consigned to history books. She recalls that some parents wouldn’t let their children invite her over for a playdate. That was it for Indica’s family. Searching for a new beginning, they moved into the city of St. Louis and discovered a brand new school: Kairos.
Indica quickly realized that Kairos was different from anything she’d ever previously experienced. She was no longer the only student of color; she had classmates of many races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. But the transition was a challenge, especially in terms of managing her workload. Her teachers didn’t accept any excuses for not completing homework assignments and insisted she push herself beyond her comfort level. It took her a while to realize they held her to a high standard because of how deeply they cared, especially Jack Krewson.
Most of you know Jack as one of the founders of Kairos and today’s Chief Strategy Officer, but for Indica, he was her mentor, along with a small group of her classmates, in what we called a “pod."
As her mentor, Jack helped Indica focus on practical time management skills. She started the year with excuses like “I didn’t do my homework because I had too much work” to coming to sessions by saying “I didn’t finish this assignment because I chose to watch TV after dinner.” That self-awareness, coupled with the constant support of Kairos teachers and her family, helped her to mature into an increasingly independent learner.
In time, Indica sought out Jack for help beyond academics. When she had conflicts with friends, Jack coached her in how to confront people with kindness and not stew in her own frustration. Indica still sometimes procrastinates on assignments, and she still gets into arguments with her friends and siblings. But today she is a self-assured young woman who is imbued with the Kairos spirit–on a constant journey of self-reflection and self-improvement.
To Indica, it’s the relationships with teachers that make Kairos special. She said “I feel I’m best friends with a lot of my teachers. They are all just passionate about the work they do.” As proof, she offered an anecdote from earlier that day:
She arrived at her homeroom in a bad mood because she had an argument with her brother. Her teacher observed her body language and could tell she was off. Without exchanging any words, he stepped outside and returned a minute later with a hot cup of tea.
Lavender. Her favorite.
As we plan for the next five years, we believe the future is bright, but we recognize we have much work to do to achieve our ambitious goals. In five years, Indica will be 20. Her interests range from healthcare to marine biology. Through Next Prep, she has been able to job shadow some professionals to help her further refine her career goals. Five years from now, Indica will have the executive function skills, academic preparation, and strength of character to succeed at whatever path she chooses.
And thanks to our renewal, there will be many more Indicas–more students who will mature into scholars that are poised to become the future leaders of this great city.