KIPP Colorado recently sat down with Ruben Morris, former KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy teacher and son of a long-time DPS teacher, to learn about the incredible new charter school that he tirelessly fought for. Mr. Morris is the founder and Superintendent of Alabama Aerospace & Aviation High School, a charter school that opened its doors to 100+ 9th and 10th-grade students just last week.
When Mr. Morris was a young boy in Birmingham, Alabama, he dreamt of becoming a commercial pilot. He was dissuaded from pursuing his dreams by a high school counselor, as no one who “looked like him” was a commercial pilot. His dream faded into the background for many years as he poured his soul into another passion: teaching. After graduating from Morehouse College, he joined Teach for America. After many years of various strategic roles, he started graduate school at the University of Denver (DU).
It was towards the end of his time at DU that he began to teach 7th grade at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy. He fondly remembers his years at KSPA under the expert leadership and direct mentorship of former Principal Kurt Pusch.
Fast forward many more years, Mr. Morris moved to Bessemer, Alabama, where he saw a powerful community need. He was deeply motivated and inspired by the KIPP Forward program (then KIPP Through College) model as the “gold standard of college readiness programs.” Mr. Morris wanted to bring a “new kind of educational opportunity to students: the chance to get an outstanding high school education combined with industry-aligned, career-focused training and experience.”
Alabama Aerospace & Aviation High School is intentionally designed to expose students to clearly defined career paths. There are four tracks for students to take– aviation, maintenance, aerospace engineering, and computer science. Each pathway leads to an industry-recognized credential or college credit, including select students working towards a fully funded pilot’s license by the time they graduate 12th grade. They partner with colleges and universities, corporate airlines, and the United States military in order to ensure that his students are getting the technical training they need for a career in aviation or aerospace.
Inspired by his 8-year-old son who wants to be a helicopter pilot, Mr. Morris envisions a future in which the alumni and those in his community are able to have the technical skills and knowledge to be at the top of their industry. He has a clear vision for his community, and we’re excited to watch them soar.