The 3 Powerful Lessons on Culture from My Internship with KIPP

KIPP New Orleans
Javier Cortez

Javier Cortez, Daytime MBA 2017, wrote this post in October 2016. Javier joined Fuqua from Peru where he was born and raised. He is interested in leveraging his financial skills in the social impact investing sector. Before Duke, he worked in a private equity company before doing corporate finance in the leading movie theater chain in his country. He is co-president of the International Business Club and Fuqua’s Soccer Club, which he loves to play besides playing heavy metal music with his guitar.

In the past 10 weeks of my summer, I have had the amazing experience to work as a Finance Intern at KIPP New Orleans Schools. This organization is a nonprofit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools serving elementary, middle, and high school students.

KIPP’s mission is built on the strong belief that all students can learn and achieve at grade level if given the opportunity. I have witnessed how everyone in the organization was committed to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to seize those opportunities. It is about transforming the lives of the students, bringing them hope for a better future.

KIPP New Orleans

The last week of my internship was the best. It was the first week of a new school year and I spent time visiting every school to see where the meaning of my job takes life. It was in the classrooms where I realized how KIPP’s culture had impacted my career goals by teaching me three powerful lessons:

  • Work hard. Be nice.
    It might sound simple but these four words are so powerful and clear about how to become both a successful professional and a better person. I have learned how hard work has its rewards by getting to know about the successful stories of former KIPP students who are now studying in many of the best universities in the United States. They put all their effort and heart into working hard and studying to improve their lives without having all the resources they need. They never gave up. In turn I will never give up in accomplishing my goals.
  • You will become what you believe you are.
    I learned how important it is to have a vision of what you want to be, even when the outside world can look so overwhelming. When I was in a history class in one of the high schools, I witnessed how challenging it is for the students in New Orleans to be in the middle of the recent racism tensions involving African Americans. At the same time, it was encouraging to see how they were taught to understand why this is happening and how to stay focused on what they want to be after college. They believe it, they will get it. That is motivation to overcome any challenge.
  • Great education transforms lives.
    This is the most important lesson that I got out of my summer. I believe that education is a powerful tool to transform lives. It has helped me to get where I am now. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood; I was luckier than most of my friends because I had access to higher education. Those not as lucky now have families and cannot find good jobs. After witnessing how KIPP Schools help children to pursue a college degree in their futures, I decided that my ultimate goal would be to help my friends’ families and others access education so that they could better their lives. Higher education transformed my life and now it can help me give back to my community what I have received all these years.

After this unbelievable summer, I can say that working at KIPP New Orleans has been a transformational experience for me. I discovered how rewarding it is to be part of an organization with a higher purpose. I found that enjoying what you do and making an impact in the community is possible!

The Summer Internship Fund (SIF) enables first year Duke MBA-Daytime students to learn about the rewards and challenges of social sector management without making a significant financial sacrifice. In addition, the program enables organizations that otherwise could not afford to hire MBA student interns to benefit from students’ expertise. The SIF has supported more than 170 students, distributed nearly $520,000, and helped to further the mission of many nonprofit and government organizations. Funds are raised through student fundraising and from donors who believe in the mission of the program. If you would like to contribute, you can donate online using your credit card.