Female Athletes Make Their Mark in 2022!

As we honor Women’s History Month, we’re putting our female student athletes and coaches at KIPP Newark in the spotlight! This year, the squeaks of sneakers on gym floors, the shriek of a whistle on the field, and shouts of encouragement from the sidelines are back as our student athletes return to programs at our schools across Newark.

At KIPP Newark Lab High School, KIPP Newark’s newest high school, physical education teacher and athletics coordinator Ariel Smith is thrilled to see students getting back into athletics. “Having strong athletics programs is so important because many kids really rely on that as their outlet for energy. Sports build school culture—there’s nothing like cheering on your teammates and building that camaraderie. In high school, it’s everything,” said Smith.

KIPP Newark Lab High School junior Ahnasia Jones-Hodges, a two-sport student-athlete who plays volleyball and basketball, is thrilled to be back on the court. “I missed having a crowd and people in the stands when you have someone cheering your name, it makes you want to work harder,” said Jones- Hodges, who aspires to play basketball in college as she pursues a degree in family therapy.

KIPP Rise Academy eighth grader Niaja Troutman plays flag football and competes in track. “During quarantine, I found ways to stay active, like going to the park to get a run in or work on areas I struggled in previously,” she said. But mostly, the pandemic taught her to appreciate the role athletics plays in her life. “The challenges of last year, of not being able to be with my friends and play for fans, taught me to not take things for granted. I know so many families were isolated, and it was sometimes hard to keep up with school,” said Troutman. This year, she’s playing as many sports as possible. “My mindset for this year is to ‘go get it!’” she said.

This year, KIPP Newark opened a new middle school KIPP Purpose Academy where student-athletes are supported by the leadership of coach Hope Whalen. Whalen, who coached soccer for years at the college level, is bringing as many female students into athletics as possible.

“In a new school, sports offer the community so much,” said Whalen. “I believe there’s a place for everyone in athletics, whether students are in the crowd cheering on their classmates, helping out as athletics trainers, or recording statistics. There’s a way for sports to impact everyone in our community,” she said.

KIPP Newark female athletes are following in the footsteps of athletes like wrestler Goodness Okoro, who made history in 2020 as the first wrestler from KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy to ever represent the school at the New Jersey State Wrestling Championship—where she finished in fourth place. We can’t wait to see where athletics takes our students at KIPP Newark!