OUR DIFFERENCES MAKE US STRONGER.
Dean of Middle School
Just ask Alisha Gripp what she loves about her job, and her face lights up. She talks about how you can feel the “warmth and community” at Citizens by simply walking in the door. According to Alisha, that’s not easy to do. The warmth and community comes from an environment that has been created at the school - from its dedicated and knowledgeable teachers and staff to its eager and engaging students. She talks about how her middle school students have bonded since they started the school year - just a couple months ago - and how they seem to easily recognize each other’s strengths and how they have truly formed a school family. Anyone who meets Alisha can tell she loves what she does, and she brings that excitement and passion to work with her every day.
Citizens benefits from having a diverse staff with experts in so many different fields. How does that diversity of staff make you and your school stronger?
At the middle school level, we have teachers ranging from first-year teaching all the way to 10+ years of experience. We have teachers that have taught overseas, and we have one who just became a naturalized American citizen. What that means for our students is that no matter what your interests are, no matter what background you have, there is a staff member who our students relate to and identify and feel comfortable with.
Diversity drives all we do and is how Citizens lives out its mission. How do you see this being embodied at Citizens in the student body?
We have 50 6th graders at the middle school. A handful came from home-school programs, a handful relocated from out of the area and moved to KC for various reasons, a handful came out of private school, and a handful came from neighborhood schools or other charter schools. The student diversity is a perfect mix -- all students have someone who is like them, but also they are all very different. And they talk about it a lot - about how “we’re all so very different from each other and for the most part we all get along.”
At Citizens, we really focus on making sure our core values of Excellence, Diversity, Authenticity, Change, and Community are embedded in all we do. How do you see these play out in the school?
We do Monday Assembly at the middle school, where we all gather together and acknowledge each other for core values, and we do a student talent showcase. We do the core values chant, and we always sing “Happy Birthday” to those who had a birthday the week before. We open the week with that community time together.
But one thing that’s cool at the middle school is it’s no longer just adults acknowledging students for displaying the core values. Students have time set aside every week to acknowledge each other. They can give a shout out to an adult, and adults can acknowledge each other or students, so there’s more ownership for everyone.
What are some examples of student shout-outs during Monday Assembly?
One student was in three schools last year and just didn’t find where he was being successful. He came to Citizens, and he and his mother have really leaned in to what we’re doing here. A student wrote a shout-out to him for excellence for his growth over the first month of school. There is also a student who relocated from Chicago to Kansas City and chose Citizens. Out of the assembles we’ve had this year, she’s gotten two shout-outs about what a good friend she is and how much she goes above and beyond to make sure people are happy. I am so proud of how our students support each other.