The Secret of the Handshake
When he was principal
of KIPP WAYS Academy in
Atlanta, David Jernigan
T. LYNNE PIXLEY
Co-workers and students’ parents say David Jernigan ’00, executive director of the KIPP schools
in Atlanta, encourages students just by the way he greets them and makes them feel important.
He also can be demanding, as much of himself as anyone else.
ting a high school diploma, much less a college
Now executive director of the five KIPP
academies in Atlanta, Jernigan is a true believer
in KIPP, or Knowledge is Power Program, and
its insistence that by setting high standards and
instilling children with a can-do approach to
life, they will achieve whatever they set out to
ZIP codes and destiny
KIPP academies are charter schools. There
are 109 of them nationwide, and they cater to
poor and minority students in inner-city neighborhoods where poverty, broken homes and
various forms of abuse often are barriers to get-
David Jernigan ’00 received the GAA’s
Distinguished Young Alumni Award at a banquet with its Board of Directors on Oct. 7.
Since 1989, the award has recognized alumni
age 40 or younger whose accomplishments
have brought credit to the University. The full
text of the citations for Jernigan’s award and
previous recipients can be seen at
Alumni Award 2011
“We believe your ZIP code does not have to
define your destiny,” Jernigan said.
Atlanta’s KIPP academies are located in disparate parts of the city, but all are low-income
areas often riddled with drug problems and
crime. Jernigan, who not only ran KIPP WAYS
but also started the school, faced a daunting
challenge in 2003 when he went from home to
home trying to convince skeptical parents to
send their kids to his school.
As a white man in a black neighborhood,
Jernigan “got a lot of doors slammed in his
face,” Dozier noted. But it did not deter him.
He continued to drive his Ford Focus through
the streets of the Northwestern Washington
Park area of Atlanta tirelessly explaining the
He opened KIPP WAYS with 90 fifth-graders, two administrators and a team of four
hand-picked teachers who were willing to put
in the time and effort required to help each kid
reach his or her potential.
From that start-up fifth grade, Jernigan added
CAROLINA ALUMNI REVIEW