KKIS – Transforming Lives Through Education in Playa Del Carmen

KKIS – Transforming Lives Through Education in Playa Del Carmen

In the heart of Playa Del Carmen, amidst the vibrant colors of the Riviera Maya, lies a beacon of change: KKIS, or Keeping Kids in School. As the warm Caribbean breeze sweeps through the streets, it carries with it the dreams of countless children longing for a brighter future.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look inside KKIS, an organization dedicated to breaking down barriers and paving the way for young minds to flourish. From scholarship programs to community partnerships, KKIS embodies the spirit of empowerment, one student at a time.

The Vision and Mission of KKIS

At the heart of KKIS lies a powerful vision: to improve lives through education by Keeping Kids in School. This vision is not merely a lofty aspiration but a guiding principle that drives every action and decision of the organization.

When retired teacher Gayle Collins retired to Mexico in 2011, she became curious about how public schools in Mexico operated. Through a friendship with a local English-speaking teacher, she learned about the tough economic situations many families faced. Kids in Playa often lacked basic school supplies, even just pens and paper, making it harder for them to succeed in school. Gayle saw an opportunity to make a difference and decided to take action by starting KKIS.

KKIS understands the profound impact of education in breaking the cycle of poverty, enhancing lives, and building stronger communities. In this local area economic challenges often hinder access to education, with many promising teens missing out on the chance to graduate high school.

For students, grades 10-12 are not 100% free to attend at public high schools in Mexico. They have to pay to apply, pay for books, tuition, and uniforms, to name just a few expenses.

Often, the expense of $650 USD for high school is beyond a family’s budget when the minimum wage in Mexico is about $12 USD per day. Not-to-mention, the double-edged sword of paying for education, means that their teens cannot go out to work to earn money for their family, and is a luxury that many just cannot afford.

The mission of KKIS is rooted in the belief that education is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all. By removing the financial barriers by giving scholarships, and providing essential support, KKIS enables deserving students to pursue their educational aspirations without limitations.

Over the years KKIS has achieved remarkable success in its mission. With a high school graduation rate of 94%, significantly surpassing the national average. But KKIS’s impact extends far beyond this. By equipping students with essential language, life, and work skills, KKIS empowers them to become leaders, innovators, and catalysts for positive change in their communities.

Initiatives and Programs

School Supplies

One of the cornerstone programs of KKIS is its provision of school supplies, it’s where it all began, giving out bags filled with pencils, pens, and notebooks. Although it may not sound like much to travelers to the Riviera Maya, a bag containing the equipment list of school supplies for the year can cost more than a week’s wages for a local family.



In addition to material support, KKIS also offers scholarships to deserving students, enabling them to continue their education and graduate high school. In more recent years, KKIS has also funded college places for students wanting to boost their education further, and has this year seen it first cohort of university graduates unleashed into the world of employment and gain jobs that will change the trajectory of their entire families’ lives.

Why education? Quite frankly, it boosts earning potential. High school graduates in Mexico earn almost 50% more than non-graduates. College graduates earn over 125% more!

English Conversation Club

Through its weekly English Conversation Club, KKIS helps students develop the skills and confidence they need to thrive in today’s globalized world. In the local area, its highly likely they will need to become bilingual in whichever line of work they go into and knowing English can provide a much greater employability chance and earning potential.

KKIS sends volunteers weekly to the schools to speak with the children to help them practice their speaking and listening skills. If you’d like to learn more about volunteering at the ECC, click here!

Success Stories and Testimonials 

KKIS has so many success stories. Here are just a few about the amazing students they support:

Carlos’ Story

Carlos is an environmental engineer student. He was originally at school in Playa but wanted to go to a different school to study, where they had a better program. He found an uncle in the same town the school was in, so arrangements were made for him to go, and he moved.  

Carlos loves the program and is on track to graduate in 2 years with a university degree in Environmental engineering. Last summer he went to Columbia for 3 weeks to work with a group of students on a special project. When he came home, he told the KKIS staff what an eye opening and life changing trip it was. Not just for the collaboration with students from other Latin American countries, but because he had never left Mexico before.  

Education goes beyond the classroom and KKIS encourages all types of learning. 

Irma’s Story

Irma graduated in the spring of 2023 with a degree in law. Before graduation she was already working in a law office and as a consultant for a local nonprofit. She wants to protect the people and environment of the Riviera Maya from injustice.  

Irma works hard and take her job very seriously. She has already introduced legislation regarding fair treatment of all employees in a company and to provide a better and safer work environment.  

Irma was a KKIS scholarship recipient for her 4 years of university study and she said by having the scholarship she was able to focus on her studies and make a difference in Playa Del Carmen. 

KKIS Students Have a Bright Future

The promising students that have been through the KKIS scholarship system are varied and are grasping the opportunities they have been given. Some work in search and rescue in Tulum, some are finishing dentistry school, are fashion designers, accountants, and have dreams of opening their own private schools. There seems to be no limit when you give a promising student an opportunity. 

A recent conversation with a prominent business here in Playa said: “I like to hire KKIS students because they work hard and fight for the right thing, they haven’t been given everything and expect paid lunches like some applicants we get”. 

Excelling and hard work go hand in hand, KKIS students have drive, self-esteem and hope of a better future. 


How You Can Make a Difference

Now that you’ve learned about the incredible work of KKIS and the impact it has on the Playa Del Carmen community, you may be wondering how you can get involved and contribute to this important cause. As members of the community, or visitors to the area on vacation, there are many ways in which you can support the work of KKIS.

  1. Donate: As with all charities, financial contributes play the most role in supporting KKIS’s initiatives. Whether it’s a one-time donation or a recurring monthly contribution, every dollar counts. You can also donate school supplies to their office in central Playa, just send them a message on social media for the address.
  2. Volunteer: KKIS relies on dedicated volunteers to help things run smoothly. From a one-off day helping to pack school supplies to being a regular supporter at the weekly English conversation club – your help matters.
  3. Spread the Word: You can raise awareness of KKIS and its mission by sharing information with your friends, family, and social networks. Give them a follow and share on your social media channels!
  4. Corporate Partnerships: If you represent a business or corporation, you can partner with KKIS through corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  5. Attend Fundraising Events: Keep an eye out for fundraising events hosted by KKIS throughout the year. Their annual gala dinner and charity auction, is always a night to remember, providing an opportunity to show your support for KKIS while enjoying a fun evening.

Building a Brighter Future

From providing school supplies and scholarships to offering mentorship and support, KKIS empowers students to overcome obstacles and reach their full potential. But the work of KKIS goes beyond academic success; it instills hope, resilience, and a sense of possibility in the hearts of young people, inspiring them to dream big and pursue a whole new life.

As we look to the future, let us remember that the journey towards educational equity and opportunity is ongoing. There are still many students in Playa Del Carmen and beyond who face barriers to education, whether it’s financial constraints, systemic inequalities, or social injustices.

But with your support, charities like KKIS can continue to do their commendable work and change the futures for so many students. For more information on how you can support KKIS and make a difference, please visit their website at www.kkisproject.org


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