This content was originally included in Teach For America, Idaho’s newsletter
Kurt Kargou was lured to Idaho by a fellow 2013 Teach for America (TFA) Corps member in Houston, Brad Petersen, who moved to the Gem State to open Future Public School, a Garden City-based charter school.
After his corps service, Kurt had developed school finance expertise by working in investment banking, as well as a stint as an Education Pioneer Fellow with New Schools for Baton Rouge in a finance capacity.
So when Petersen reached out and urged Kurt to apply for a Finance Fellowship opportunity with Bluum, a Boise-based nonprofit that helps develop new schools, he jumped at the opportunity. Kurt’s first task as the inaugural Bluum Finance Fellow was to help Petersen and his Future Public School co-founder Amanda Cox get their ambitious school ready for launch.
“My job was to look at numbers, analyze numbers, create a budget, and help them get the school off the ground,” Kurt said. He found the work rewarding, and was soon deeply immersed in the world of school creation, as Bluum worked aggressively to open new schools across Idaho.
He was deeply involved in planning and budgeting for MOSAICS, a K-8 school in Caldwell that opened last summer, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kurt even helped come up with the school’s clever name, which is an acronym for its mission statement: Molding our Scientists and Artists Into Community Stewards.
He has helped with financial planning and forecasting for other Bluum-sponsored schools as well.
When Kurt’s fellowship ended, he stayed on as Bluum’s Special Projects Manager. Simultaneously, he started working last fall on an MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Because of the pandemic, all of Kurt’s classes have been online, allowing him to remain in Idaho and continue to support Bluum schools.
TFA Idaho’s mission is supported by three pillars: Teach, Lead, and Learn. Our Teach pillar means to do more than merely close education gaps, but also to provide next-level excellence, to give Idaho students the chance to put their learning to work for them for a better future. When we say Lead we mean lead by example. Ultimately, to truly lead, one has to help others lead themselves. And by Learn, we mean learning from everyone; from students, teachers, and parents. We listen and grow — always empathetic, with open hearts and minds.
Kurt provides a sterling example of TFA Idaho’s Lead pillar. He has played a key role helping entrepreneurial educators create financially sustainable schools, an area in which many mission-driven charter leaders struggle.
Kurt plans to take his financial acumen and leadership ability to the next level once he has secured his MBA. “My plan is not to graduate and go to Wall Street and work for Bain or McKinsey,” he said. “From my time in the classroom in Houston, I know how desperately philanthropic resources are needed in schools in low-income communities.”
He hopes to work helping bring resources to those schools, by any means necessary. That could include landing major grants, rounding up textbook donations, or funding life-changing field trips to other states or abroad for kids who have never left their neighborhood.
“Finance is a means to an end. The goal is to provide the kids who need it most with a transformational educational experience,” he said.