How to Make Students' DREAMS Come True: Catina K. Taylor
Catina K. Taylor, JD, founder & lead griot
Kansas City, Missouri
The dropout rate for black students in Kansas City Public Schools sits above the state’s average. At its peak in the last decade, more than 15 percent of black students dropped out of high school.
Catina K. Taylor is intimately aware of that fact—she grew up in the Kansas City Public School system. After more than 15 years as an educator, she decided she couldn’t sit back and watch schools fail their students any longer. Like all successful entrepreneurs, she took it upon herself to meet this problem head on, and DREAMS KC was born.
DREAMS KC is a brand new elementary school that develops the personal, professional, civic and entrepreneurial competencies of its students. This March, Catina will kick off a pilot program of DREAMS KC with 10 Kansas City students.
She’s here today to tell you more about her solution to one of the world’s biggest problems, share advice on chasing your own dreams and highlight a few of the area organizations that have helped her get where she is today:
Everything in society has evolved except the way we do and deliver education. As an industry, we have continued to do the same bad things a little bit better in anticipation of improved engagement, academic achievement, college and career readiness and higher graduation rates.
However, in urban centers across the country, poor and minority students are continuing to become increasingly disengaged in the educational process, drop out (or get pushed out) or graduate ill prepared to transition to college or the workforce.
DREAMS KC addresses this problem by focusing on the whole child. DREAMS is a tuition free, K-6 public school that furnishes children and families with the essential skills needed to end generational poverty in an innovative physical learning environment.
DREAMS will ensure that students will be creative problem solvers, critical thinkers and skilled communicators. Each aspect of the school’s design has been thoughtfully crafted to support this vision of success.
At its core, DREAMS is a school model that includes:
Why did you decide to exit the classroom and become an entrepreneur?
My community, the state of the public schools in Kansas City and my desire to serve necessitated this route. It was a natural transition for me as I could no longer participate in a failing educational system that affects generations of young people, and consequently neighborhoods, the city, state and ultimately the nation.
The most difficult time for me as an entrepreneur has been making the decision to end full-time work to pursue my goals without a financial safety net. Through substitute teaching, tutoring and private consulting, I have been able to truly bootstrap my entire life.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about starting their entrepreneurial journey?
Do it! Understand, however, if it is about YOU, it will probably fail. If it is about your customer or community, and you are passionate about it, it will more than likely work.
Be flexible and teachable. If you aren't, you will never make it out of the gate. No two days or experiences are the same, so be ready to pivot when necessary. Perseverance and a growth mindset are key.
Yes, you will cry and wonder if you are the right person to be doing this work. If you get back up the next day with a desire to continue, you are the right person. The fear will still be there, but it cannot keep you from acting.
What organizations in Kansas City have you helped you along in your entrepreneurial journey?
FastTrac® NewVenture™ was my first entrepreneurial training class; I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get started. (Provided by the UMKC SBTDC.)
UMKC Entrepreneurship Scholars program moved me into the twenty-first century with their entrepreneurship class; I also am now a part of the beta test group for their incubator space.
The Lean Lab was my introduction to design thinking, which has fast tracked DREAMS KC and my pilot program coming up in March.
I learned a tremendous amount about pitching my business at 1 Million Cups and have since served as an expert panelist.
The Ice House Entrepreneurship Program pushed me to refine and develop my DREAMS KC business model and taught me about bootstrapping a business. (Provided by the UMKC SBTDC.)
I have a great relationship with the team at the Kansas City Startup Village, which has lead to many excellent connections and opportunities in the community.
I just completed the Mentor Network program at Sprint Accelerator, which paired me with an amazing business mentor for six months.
What’s your ultimate goal for DREAMS KC?
The champagne dream for DREAMS KC is to become a turnaround model that will be implemented in struggling urban school districts across the country. This school will be a bright light that will provide a high quality learning environment that children will seek out for generations to come.
There are two opportunities coming up soon to support DREAMS KC, both are movie screenings, on February 17 and March 3. Follow the links to RSVP now.
Learn more from Catina and DREAMS KC (and even consider entering your five year old in the pilot program) at her website, Facebook or Twitter.
Ready to start chasing your own dreams?
Catina has utilized many resources in Kansas City to learn and grow as an entrepreneur; be like Catina. Send us some info here
and we will be in touch ASAP with your personalized action plan. Your dreams are in reach, let us help you get there.