Podcast with KIPP’s Darius Kirk

You’re reading transcript highlights from the Live United Podcast with KIPP’s Darius Kirk, presented by the nonprofit Tulsa Area United Way. Please subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts.

Portrait of KIPP Tulsa's Darius Kirk, who was a guest on the episode of Tulsa Area United Way's Live United Podcast with KIPP's Darius Kirk

Matthew Gleason: From the nonprofit Tulsa Area United Way, I’m Matthew Gleason, and this is the weekly Live United podcast. Our guest is Darius Kirk, executive director of KIPP Tulsa Public Charter Schools, a proud Tulsa Area United Way partner agency.

Together with families and communities, KIPP Tulsa identifies Tulsa Public School students who are least likely to earn a college degree and then provides the college preparatory education and support required to earn one. That means offering reading and math intervention and homework support. It also means extracurricular activities, including athletics, robotics, and, of course, the acclaimed drumline. And I have to say that the KIPP drumline brought so much life and energy to the Tulsa Area United Way’s 2021 campaign kickoff event.

KIPP is also providing robust support for social, emotional learning and an identity-affirming and culturally relevant learning environment for the more than 90% of students who identify as Black or Latinx. So, with all that being said, Darius, welcome to the Live United podcast with Daris Kirk.

Darius Kirk: Thanks so much.

Matthew: So let’s start with your journey. Darius, tell us about yourself and how you found your way to KIPP.

Darius: Beautiful. Well, I’m elated to speak to you today, just about my story and where I grew up, and how I even got into education. I grew up on 40th and Garrison, which is on the north side of Tulsa. Even though I grew up in a two-parent home, my father was the only male, I want to say, who was in that neighborhood. He was like the father to everyone. And the reason why I’m saying that is because, you know, my parents were like the parents of the entire neighborhood. All of that plays a part in who I am now as an educator.

And I was just thinking about this earlier: why I even went to college. My parents’ thing was like, “you need to go to the military, or you can go to college, but you can’t just be at home doing nothing.” And I said, “I’m going to go to TCC.” My grandfather, a pastor at one of the Baptist churches in north Tulsa, was an integral part of my life. I think about everything he has done for me. He pulled me to the side, and he said, “grandson, I want you to go to Langston University,” and I said, “no, I don’t want to do it. He was like, “grandson, I need you to go. And I said, “yes, sir.” 

I was the first in my family to obtain a master’s degree. My parents have bachelor’s degrees, but I was the first. I will be the first in my family to obtain a doctorate as well.

And I just was reflecting on what if my grandfather would have been quiet? And so, I am very cognizant of the power of the voice.

Now, how I got into education. Wow. My mom opened up an alternative school for students who got kicked out of alternative schools. So my mom has such a loving but stern presence. And so we had like a school in a house on the north side. I remember her making sure we had breakfast, getting us up, making sure her classroom was set up, getting us off to school, and then the students would come. So that’s where I get my drive from. So my “why I became an educator” is because of her?

Matthew: Tell me a story of how a student’s life was forever changed because of KIPP.

 Darius: I have so many stories, but the one I think I’m going to highlight today is Joseph. He was in the inaugural class of KIPP in 2005. He struggled, but he was still determined to stay in even though he was struggling. He was like,” Mr. Kirk, I’m going to do it, and he did.” 

So last year I received a phone from Joseph. He said,”Listen, I just graduated from college. And because of the impact that you made on my life, I want to give back by being a teacher. Do you have any spots at KIPP? That floored me. He said, “Mr. Kirk, you were my first black male teacher, and you didn’t give up on me. So I want to do that for others. That meant the world, and that is a story that I will carry for the rest of my life.

 Matthew: Darius, thank you so much for being here with us and thanks to everyone listening to this Live United podcast with KIPP’s Darius Kirk.

And thank you so much for everything you do for KIPP Tulsa. You’re. So as is tradition here at live United, we ask our guests one final question. We want to know what their, why is so Darius, why do you live United?

Darius: Wow. That’s such a powerful statement live united. I choose, especially now in this world where there are so many different voices of dissension where the notion is if you disagree with somebody, you have to hate them. I am intentional about embracing diversity in thought and practice. So I may disagree with you, but because I value who you are and the connectivity that we both can bring to this world, that is what I mean by living united.

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