On Wednesday morning, we loaded up the bus in Austin and prepared to drive to Houston to meet Bob Peebler at KIPP Houston High School, a public charter school. Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools were started in 1994 and focus on developing knowledge as well as character in their students. KIPP schools strive to prepare their students for college and assist them with following the necessary steps so they will be able to attend and graduate from college. Since their opening, KIPP has grown to over 200 schools around the country and now have 88 percent of students from low-income families.
We were given a tour of the KIPP Houston High School from Courtenay Selden, who is a KIPP school alumnus, and Laurie Bieber, a former KIPP teacher who is now the Chief Advancement Officer for KIPP Houston. We learned about how KIPP teachers are exceptionally hard working and do anything in their power to help their students succeed. We concluded our tour by hearing from their school leader, Prinicpal Mohamad Marouf. Mohamad started teaching at KIPP Houston High School in 2010, while being a Teach for America corpsmember. Mohamad’s passion for his students and their education showed throughout our time speaking with him.
After our time at KIPP Houston High School, we headed to Ruggles Green to have lunch and chat with Bob Peebler. Ruggles Green is a green restaurant that uses local and organic food to deliver healthy and tasty meals. We talked with Bob about his career and how he became an owner of five Ruggles Green restaurants.
On Wednesday, we also had the opportunity to visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) between our company visits. Established in 1909, HMNS is now one of the most popular museums in the US with attendance totaling over 2 million visitors each year. While we were there, we were led by docents and KU alums, Jim and Gillian Callen, through the Hall of Ancient Egypt and the Morian Hall of Paleontology.
The Hall of Ancient Egypt opened in 2013 and contains many millennia-old artifacts such as pottery, clothing, and jewelry. It features recreations of Egyptian temples and mummies from primary civilization. One of the group's favorite parts of the tour was being able to see a real shrunken head. It is believed that one would cut off the head of their enemy, boil it, and then wear them on a belt as a trophy.
After making it through Egypt, we got to see the Morian Hall of Paleontology which contains more than 60 large skeleton mounts ranging from humans to dinosaurs, including four Tyrannosaurus rex and three large Quetzalcoatlus. One of the highlights of the exhibit was being able to see a replica of Lucy, an early australopithecine and one of the earliest discoveries of upright walking as she is estimated to be 3.2 million years old.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science houses ten other outstanding exhibits as well as its large number of guest exhibits. Although we wish we could have stayed to see it all, we want to thank Jim and Gillian Callen for sharing their expertise as well as passion for their studies.
Our last stop for Wednesday was GTT North America. Allyn Risley, a KU Engineering alumnus, welcomed the SELF Fellows in the lobby and we ventured to a conference room to meet two members of the GTT family, Greg Denton, a KU Engineering grad who is currently the Business Development Manager at GTT, and Aziz Bamik, GTT North America's General Manager. The two talked extensively on the past, present, and future of GTT.
GTT is an expert in LNG systems. Some of their ventures include shipping and storage of LNG in cryogenic conditions, bespoke technologies and solutions for offshore industry, and the future of LNG as a propulsion fuel.
After our meeting, Mr. Risley was kind enough to ask us to a showing at the Houston Grand Opera Studio. We met with KU alums and enjoyed a magnificent evening filled with music in the studio of the opera house. It was an unforgettable evening of STEM and the arts. We would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Mr. Risley and his wife, Jill, for their hospitality.