BBVA Compass and KIPP Houston Public Schools cut the ribbon Monday on the charter school system’s newest campus: the BBVA Compass Opportunity Campus, home of KIPP NEXUS Primary School and KIPP NEXUS Middle School in Northwest Houston. The campus, which welcomed its inaugural classes in the fall, is the first KIPP campus nationwide to share its name with a corporate investor.
KIPP is the nation’s largest charter school system, and has a strong track record of moving low-income children to and through college at a much higher rate than traditional public schools. In the Houston area, 10.6 percent of low-income eighth-graders have graduated from college within six years, whereas 50 percent of KIPP Houston students do so. The new campus is opening hundreds of seats in KIPP Houston, which currently has a waiting list of more than 10,000, underscoring BBVA Compass’ commitment to Houston and to creating opportunities in underserved communities.
“BBVA Compass’ investment in KIPP Houston marks our largest ever education investment, and there’s a reason we chose KIPP,” said BBVA Compass President and CEO Onur Genç. “Whenever you see an organization that’s having such a transformative effect on lives, especially children’s lives, you want to do whatever you can to help it go farther and create even more opportunities.”
Mike Feinberg, who co-founded KIPP in 1994 in Houston with fellow Teach For America teacher Dave Levin, said he hopes the partnership with BBVA Compass can serve as a model of public-private cooperation.
“KIPP is preparing our kids not just to do well in school, but to do well in life,” he said. “This partnership is an example where business and K-12 can work directly together. BBVA Compass knows a lot about growing organizations and supporting businesses, and it can help give direction on how to shape the workforce of the future, how to give our kids both the hard academic skills and the soft skills — skills like teamwork, perseverance, self-control — that they’re going to need to both get their foot in the door and also become future leaders.”
The bank announced at the ribbon-cutting, which was delayed from earlier in the year due to Hurricane Harvey, that it was giving each KIPP NEXUS student a $25 voucher to open a Young Savers account with the bank. The bank’s volunteers, meantime, have already spent time at the school teaching financial education to kindergarteners.
“One of the great things about the partnership with BBVA Compass has been the financial literacy class that’s been offered to our youngest students, our kindergarteners,” said KIPP NEXUS School Leader Lisa McClinton. “Many of our families are not aware of what it takes to really get to college and to sustain in college financially, and so this particular course was a way to start the conversation with our families here at KIPP NEXUS.”
Hundreds get ‘that awesome phone call’
KIPP launched a growth campaign in 2014, with a goal of adding 10 new schools in Houston to increase its total number of area students to 18,000 by 2024. The BBVA Compass Foundation became the lead corporate investor in the campaign, committing $1.8 million over five years and earning it the naming rights to one of KIPP’s campuses for 10 years. The BBVA Compass Opportunity Campus is home to KIPP NEXUS Primary School and KIPP NEXUS Middle School. It currently boasts 91 kindergarteners and 110 fifth-graders, and plans to add first-grade and sixth-grade classes for the 2018-2019 school year.
KIPP Houston is a public charter school system, and it gets most of its operating dollars from the State of Texas. It was prohibited from using that funding for new facilities, however, until the Texas legislature voted to change that for the 2018-2019 school year. Now the state’s charter schools will get $60 million for facilities funding, which charter-school advocates say covers only a fraction of the current facilities needs.
“The bottom line is this commitment from BBVA Compass is enabling us to open up a school in Northwest Houston, where we didn’t have any schools and yet there were thousands of kids nearby on the waitlist,” Feinberg said. “It allowed hundreds of families that were praying they could somehow get a seat in a KIPP school to get that awesome phone call saying, ‘Guess what, good news, your child has a seat in our school.’”
A history of commitment
Over the past five years, BBVA Compass has invested more than $7 million in education, much of it in underserved areas. In 2015, for instance, the bank teamed up with the Houston Symphony and the Houston Independent School District to launch the Houston Symphony School Residency at Crespo Elementary, which has a student population that’s 95 percent economically disadvantaged and 97 percent Hispanic.
As part of the program, two of the symphony’s Community-Embedded Musicians lead classroom interactions designed to enrich the lives of every third-, fourth- and fifth-grade student at Crespo. BBVA Compass funded the program, the first of the kind in the city, which is structured around lessons, instrument demonstrations and performances.
The effort was designed in part to support the bank’s drive to help build a pipeline of the kinds of creative thinkers Houston needs to sustain its lead in some of the most demanding disciplines that would seem to have nothing to do with the arts — medicine, space exploration, energy, to name a few. Studies have found that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were significantly more likely to excel in math if they’d had music education, for instance, and non-native English speakers are also able to pick up the language faster through the use of music.
Ocañas: One of the best ways we can help ensure Houston’s future is to give its children — all of its children — the education they need so they can one day step up and lead it into the 22nd century
“After Harvey, it’s worth saying: We believe in Houston’s bright future, we’re committed to it, and we’re paying close attention to what it needs to continue to be a model city in this 21st century,” said BBVA Compass Director of Corporate Responsibility and Reputation Reymundo Ocañas, who played a prominent role in organizing the bank’s relief efforts after the storm. “One of the best ways we can help ensure Houston’s future is to give its children — all of its children — the education they need so they can one day step up and lead it into the 22nd century.”
It’s a sentiment KIPP’s Feinberg echoes.
“Houston is such an entrepreneurial city with so many opportunities with so many industries, which means there’s a need for a lot of talent here,” Feinberg said. “But we’re not going to get there if only 20 percent of all of our children wind up getting college degrees. It’s simply not enough in this global economy, so we need to increase that level. And if we do, then the race to the top is won right here in Houston.”
Edith Campos, part of the Corporate Responsibility & Reputation team at BBVA Compass, talks about her KIPP experience, how it changed her life, and why she pours her heart into giving back at the BBVA Compass Opportunity Campus.