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Higher Ground: KIPP Strives To Lift New Orleans Grads Past Their Struggles

Eleven years ago, as Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters receded, experts promised to transform the city by upending its schools, fixing poverty and crime by and through degrees. …

Far more students graduate from New Orleans public high schools now: 75 percent, up from 54 percent before the storm …

But the real test is what happens after high school. The new New Orleans won’t materialize if beaming teenagers walk off the graduation dais as if it were a gangplank.

KIPP New Orleans is the city’s largest charter group and in many ways the symbol of the revolution. Two years ago, following the lead of its national network, it opened a support program for local alumni: KIPP Through College.

Nationally, only 9 percent of low-income students earn a bachelor’s degree by the time they’re 24, according to the Pell Institute. As the new school year began, 61 percent of KIPP New Orleans graduates were set to be in college or the military.

The real proof may take years. But so far, many of these students are succeeding. Their stories show just how hard that is.