KK is in the 10th grade at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy. We recently sat down with KK to learn more about her educational journey and experience at RVLA.
What drew you to RVLA?
I’ve been going to RVLA going on five years, since sixth grade. My mom found out about the school, and I went there to get a new experience. At RVLA, teachers take time out of their day – even during their free time – to help students when we need to talk. This was never my experience in my previous schools. There should be more schools where teachers care that much because most kids need that extra effort.
How has your experience been at RVLA overall?
It has been really good, actually. I’m getting better grades, meeting new people, and it was a new environment. My grades have been better because I’ve had the structure here that I’ve needed – that type of push that most kids need to get through.
What makes RVLA unique?
RVLA is unique mainly because of the kids – we have different backgrounds, all from different places in the world, so we are figuring out who we are in a really diverse environment.
It is also unique because of the teachers – RVLA is almost entirely BIPOC staff. As a student, racial representation in your teachers matters. It helps a lot because they know partially where we come from – they know like, how to deal with certain things we are going through. Staff and teachers give us really strong role models in our community and help us more than you’d usually expect of teachers.
How was your experience with virtual school during the pandemic?
At RVLA, our teachers were still there 100% to help us even though they were online. They offered study halls and extra help if needed. I have mentors outside of school. They would call and email and text to check in and see if we were okay, and know what is going on with me through regular check-ins.
Miss Biglow in particular helped me get through grief of a death in my family and just being a teenager in this world. She checks in on me, and I trust her. This is just one example. ALL of our teachers here just get to know us on a different level.
How has it been being back in school?
It has been good. I like it better being in school, mainly because of the connection we have in person with the teachers. They really understand us on a different level. I also like seeing my peers – that was what was mainly hard about COVID. It really helped when we came back. I’m more used to being in person, I learn better in person.
Charter schools currently get less state funding than other public schools. What do you want our state’s leaders – who make decisions about public education – to know about your experience at a charter public school?
I would say to please know all sides of the story, because you never know what people are going through, and what this experience means. I want them to know how much my school and having a good fit and experience means to me. It’s not fair that I’m punished for that.
We need different types of schools, and you never know what certain kids need. We are all different in our own ways. Some of us need more help. Some are more advanced, some do better learning at home, or are antisocial, or more independent. We all are different, so it is always better to have options.
It is also important they know that charters like RVLA are more reflective of our community than our assigned options – some kids are more comfortable going to school where there are other people with their skin tone, including teachers. For me it is a different bond. Where I am going to school, I have teachers that have the same skin tone as me and they connect with me on that level, of like, knowing me. They have similar experiences.
How would you describe RVLA in your own words?
As students, this school is OUR community. It is my second home. In elementary school, I used to hate school, I didn’t feel the need to show up. At RVLA, it was really different. We have this connection with our teachers and get support that we don’t get from other people. It’s a different type of feeling.
We are actually comfortable asking for help and we get it. We need that extra push. That extra information that can take us really far. Like Mr. Jenkins, I go to him if I need help checking my grades and he’ll say, like, “What do you want to improve? Let’s work together to make a plan. What would that look like?” This spring, he is going to help us apply for Running Start. He did a class on what it is and what it consists of and how it can help us in the future. That’s just one example of how our teachers are so there for us.
Having public school options like RVLA is so important. I love going to this school. I’ve been here for almost five years, and I am HAPPY. Every morning we get greeted by our principal, get our temperatures taken, and we check in with each other. That’s a great feeling. As students, we don’t get this from everyone. For teachers and admin to be so considerate and get to know us and build their relationships with us – we don’t get from other people, but we get it at RVLA.