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Alumni Spotlight—Five Questions with IPS Alums: Dario Lee Discusses How IPS Made a Difference in His Life

Indianapolis Public Schools is proud of our graduates and their diverse, inspiring journeys. We have created the IPS Alumni Spotlight to celebrate our former students and showcase their experiences, accomplishments, and personal interests. Every graduate has a unique path, and we can all learn from their journeys.

IPS recently asked Dario Lee, a 2001 graduate of Arsenal Technical High School, about his journey that began in the state’s largest district. 

Lee, who was born in Akron, Ohio, is an actor known for his work as Detective Samuel Hartwick on the Netflix series “Cypher” (2021).  He is also known for his appearance in the Catalina Film Festival Best Doc award-winning film “Black and Blue” (2017) directed by Dylan Avery. 

He appeared in the 2020 Daytime Emmy award-winning television series “Dark/Web” (2020). He was also a part of a Telly award-winning global commercial for the NCAA and Buick (2011). Dario also produces hip-hop for hip-hop legends Ras Kass and Bun B producing “Lose it All” on Ras Kass’s (2016) Album “Intellectual Property: SOI2.”

Q–How did your experiences at Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) shape your educational foundation and career aspirations?

A–The teachers and staff at Arsenal Tech worked tirelessly to try to receive funds to be able to provide us with updated books to help prepare us for the future but were denied funds. Being denied money by state officials developed a hunger in me to work harder and harder. Having to work with what I had taught patience, gratefulness, and gratitude towards the ones who work with me. I studied hard and gained lifelong wisdom and knowledge from those hard-working teachers who took me through the wringer to help me succeed.

Q–Can you share memorable moments or teachers who had a significant impact on your time at IPS?

A–The teacher that I appreciate the most and remember is Mrs. Folks. She was my math teacher. I gave her such a hard time growing up and she stayed on me to get me to love math. Math became my favorite subject and helped me to appreciate hard work. Mrs. Folks not only supported me in the classroom but supported my basketball games as well. She was the definition of a teacher.

Q–How has your education at IPS influenced your personal and professional development since graduating?

A–Being told I couldn’t do it or wasn’t good enough has influenced where I am today and also where I will be in the future. 

Q–What specific skills or knowledge gained at IPS have proven most valuable in your current life or career?

A–Being told we were nobodies by suburban and state officials has been the best gift given to the IPS students during that time because IPS students produced some of the hardest working, professional, and purely community-driven helping-driven individuals. I have become an actor in Hollywood and never in a million years I’d think I was going to see myself on the big screen at Warner Brothers or watching myself on national television. 

Q–In what ways have you stayed connected with the IPS community, and what advice would you offer current IPS students for a successful future?

A–Sharing my story through this network has been one way I would like to connect with IPS students. I took a trip back to Arsenal Tech to discover that Tech had been awarded finally some money to help the school and it benefited the school hugely. Arsenal Tech won a state championship and school scores have gone up. I would like to let the students know to not take anything that they have now for granted because the stain that was said about IPS still tries to linger throughout the state officials and suburbia. Continue to prove them wrong by growing not only your grades but your behavior and how you treat individuals because we did not have everything suburbia did. We begged for the things you all have now at Tech so utilize the facility, and books and become something great that will help the community worldwide. Be great parents, and humans and believe in something greater than ourselves.