Spring 2010 TRINITY Magazine, Career and Calling: Called to Lead
Sarah Elizabeth Ippel ’01
Title: Executive director
Sarah Elizabeth Ippel ’01 takes a break from her duties as executive director of the Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago to pour organic milk in the lunchroom and show a few of the third graders at recess that one of the roosting hens in the playground’s chicken coop is laying an egg.
This is all part of the children’s school experience, one in which a main theme—such as “where does our food come from?”—is integrated into every subject with the goal of the students learning in an “experiential and engaged” way through the implementation of the International Baccalaureate Programme. One constant theme and foundational component of the Academy’s mission is environmental sustainability. This is taught everywhere—from the classroom lessons on renewable energy to the activities in the lunchroom, where kids separate the leftovers and trash from one of their organic meals among waste, recycle, and compost bins.
At recess, while planes roar overhead during take-off from neighboring Midway Airport, the kids swing, work in the schoolyard garden, and hula hoop within a perimeter of chain link fence and broad-leafed zucchini plants. Ippel takes off her suit jacket to hold Daisy, a schoolyard chicken, while some of the children pet it. She is not only the executive director but also the founder of this Chicago Public Charter School, located in one of the most underserved neighborhoods in Chicago.
“When I was a student at Trinity,” she said, “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, but I knew what I eventually wanted to do: create something I was passionate about that was aligned with my values.”
Only a few years later in 2005, at the age of 23, Ippel was submitting a proposal for the Academy to the Chicago Board of Education. The Academy opened in 2008 and serves a diverse population, 80 percent of whom live below poverty level.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Trinity, Ippel earned her master’s in social and developmental psychology from Cambridge University in England. She has traveled extensively, visiting over 80 countries and observing effective educational practices across six continents.
Her global perspective is communicated in the Academy’s mission “to empower all students to positively impact the community and world beyond” and includes a strong emphasis on beginning in the local communities.