#TAFMoment: Kris Kutchera

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR | February 13, 2018
By Kris Kutchera

 

I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a highly segregated city in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. My family lived in a privileged white suburb known for its schools, while my dad worked in the poorest and mostly black section of the city. When we visited my dad at work, I was struck and deeply saddened by the poverty and signs of racial injustice I saw in the area. I was convinced that the root of the problem was the poor quality of education. I have come to understand there are a multitude of contributors to inequality, but I continue to believe that the K-12 educational system is the strongest lever we have to close the gaps.

“I have come to understand there are a multitude of contributors to inequality, but I continue to believe that the K-12 educational system is the strongest lever we have to close the gaps.”

I have been incredibly fortunate in my career and I am now retired after serving as the top technology executive of four major companies in the Seattle area. I first learned about TAF in 2005 when I was invited to attend their annual fundraiser. I was blown away by the TAF students, who were far more engaged and articulate about their projects and their ambitions than any kids I knew, including my own. This experience rekindled my desire and showed me a way to make a substantial and lasting impact on the opportunity gap for kids of color. I started by donating money, then as my schedule permitted, I joined the TAF Board. I have since met many TAF students and alumni and I am even more impressed with their entrepreneurial spirit and what they are actually doing to make our world a better place.

“TAF goes to where kids in need are – public schools in low income neighborhoods.”

Granted, there are lots of organizations focused on closing opportunity gaps. I choose to invest my time and resources in TAF because it is holistic, cost effective and specifically tailored for underserved kids of color by people of color. TAF goes to where kids in need are – public schools in low income neighborhoods. TAF uses project based learning to engage kids in socially meaningful activities interweaving STEM with communications, arts and other disciplines. TAF creates supportive and inclusive schools by training teachers and promoting teachers of color as role models. TAF involves corporate sponsors and mentors to provide real world experiences for kids to expand their thinking about their own opportunities. Most importantly, TAF believes in the ability of each and every student to succeed. These things are especially important for kids of color, who often have few strong role models and little access to high quality education and corporate connections. TAF has proven that it works – with 95% on-time high school graduation rates and 100% college acceptance rates.

We are at an exciting inflection point in TAF’s 21-year history. Companies and organizations are desperate to expand their talent pipeline, and they are seeing kids of color as an increasing but untapped resource. TAF has an educational model that is ready to scale to fill these needs. As a board, our vision is to make TAF available to all underserved kids in Washington State and beyond. With the support of companies, school districts and individuals, we can make our vision a reality.

“In today’s world, we cannot afford to exclude talent because it doesn’t look or act like the majority.”

In today’s world, we cannot afford to exclude talent because it doesn’t look or act like the majority. As a woman in a male-dominated field, I know how important it is to feel valued and have access to opportunity. I also know that it takes confidence, along with skills, creativity and drive to succeed. It’s about time we get serious and make these opportunities available to everyone.

Kris Kutchera, TAF Board President

 


 

TAF’s Varsity Luncheon, The Defining Moment, will be held on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 11 am – 1 pm at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion. Come witness what happens when barriers to quality education are eliminated and access is granted through STEM education, K12 corporate partnerships, and committed educators. To attend, register online before March 5, 2018.

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