KKIS Origin Story
Did you have a teacher that really “got you”? A teacher that saw your uniqueness, encouraged you to develop your skills, inspired you to be your best?
Gayle Collins, the founder of Keeping Kids In School, was that teacher.
They say that once you are a teacher, you will always be a teacher – even after the classroom, the desire to help children achieve their potential is ever-present.
In 2011, newly retired and having recently moved to Playa del Carmen, Gayle was interested in understanding how public schools in Mexico worked.
It was December when she befriended one of the few English-speaking public-school teachers who explained the dire economic situation that the families of her students face and how school supplies, not toys, were needed for her students at Christmas.
Education in Playa
Playa del Carmen is a city of over 300,000 people where the average worker makes ~$8 US dollars per day. Elementary students need the basics like protractors, colored pencils as well as notebooks, and a backpack to store their supplies.
High school students need even more help. For students in grades 10-12, there are costs associated with school registration, books, uniforms, and transportation. Things that in the US and Canada we take for granted. In short – a High School Education is not free. The burden of a public education falls upon the family.
Gayle talked to other people who were amazed that salaries are so low that parents often are forced to prioritize survival and so encourage their children to work rather than go to school.
With its booming tourist industry, Playa del Carmen has seen a huge population increase in the past 20 years – from 44,000 in 2000 to 305,000 in 2020.
A Growing Community
KKIS has grown too! In 2012, KKIS gave 258 children school supplies. In 2021, 1,922 children received school supplies, 70 teens received high school scholarships and 23 KKIS high school scholars were awarded university scholarships.
Gayle’s commitment and vision was from the beginning infectious! In their first fundraising effort, she and her friends raised enough money to give ALL the children in that local school, school supplies (rather than toys) for Christmas.
Soon after, Gayle shared her vision with Kelly Caldwell, a Change Manager who had just retired after a 21-year career in the banking industry. Kelly brought expertise in program management and together with her Mexican husband, was able to connect KKIS with local businesses who loved the idea of helping to keep more kids in school.
More volunteers offered their help and the KKIS Project pushed ahead learning from and helping the children of Playa del Carmen. One volunteer whose service stood out was Fred Uriarte, a newly retired Aerospace executive. Fred grew up in a bi-cultural home in Los Angeles, Ca. with 7 siblings, and Mexican parents who valued education. Fred knew first-hand the value of education and in retirement is passionate about the idea of helping children not only change their own lives but also of their families and community.
Fred now serves as the Chairman of the Board for the KKIS Project and is joined by 6 other talented and committed volunteers who together are guiding the organization in its mission to improve graduation rates and change the lives of children through education.
Education Changes Lives
The KKIS Project was born from the idea that all children are entitled to an education and deserve to reach their potential.
When a single mother of 5 no longer must decide which child she can afford to enroll in primary school, she and her children win.
When a father no longer has to say to his teenage boy, “Son, I’m sorry about your dreams, but the family needs to you to work”, he and his whole family win.
Supplies for Success
With a simple set of learning tools, and an opportunity to complete 12 years of basic education, children are given a chance to change their lives and of their families, the change can be generational.
1 year’s worth of school supplies for a family with 5 children costs $.28 cents a day, $100 dollars a year, or $20 dollars per child.
You can see why helping these kids matters. Since its inception, KKIS has given over 13,000 students school supplies, awarded 344 annual high school and 44 university scholarships. Their graduation rate is 86% vs the federal average of 30%.
Currently, KKIS sponsors 70 High school students and 23 university students.
Pretty amazing – right?
The KKIS Project’s vision is – Every child deserves an education.
Ready to Take Action?
While 12 years of education in Mexico is compulsory, the average number of years of education is only 9. Students who want to go on to high school need to pay for an entrance exam, school fees, transportation, and uniform costs. We believe in public education. It is not a perfect system in any country, but we believe that all children should have access to 12 years of education.
The good news is it costs less than $2 USD per day to keep a student in high school.
If you are anything like us, you will agree that so much of why we love Playa del Carmen has to do with the amazing locals. So why not do something for the community in return?
Take action, start a recurring donation now!