“No one told me how hard it was to get into Berkeley, I never knew until I got in and people would say ‘You got into Berkeley? You know how hard it is to get there,’'' said Elaion Williams, founding student at Ánimo City of Champions Charter High School. Since his first year of high school, Elaion dreamed of going to the University of California, Berkeley.
Four years ago, Elaion and his peers went on a trip to visit colleges in Northern California. While he enjoyed the other campuses, Berkeley felt different. As he toured the university and engaged with current students, it was easy for Elaion to envision himself living and learning on campus alongside them. “It just felt right,” smiled Elaion. When he made it his goal to attend Berkeley, he had no idea how competitive the applicant pool was-- For every 100 applicants only 16 are admitted. This achievement is a testament to Elaion’s drive and determination.
His counselor, Tyler Williams remembers the moment Elaion first spoke his dream into existence. “In 9th grade he toured the school and as we loaded the bus he said he wanted to go there. He then did everything he needed to do and more to ensure he met the requirements as a competitive applicant,” said Williams.
At Ánimo City of Champions, Elaion was on the honor roll every semester, he enrolled in dual enrollment college classes, participated in several Advanced Placement courses, he was actively involved on campus, and took advantage of summer enrichment programs. “College is so much more than academics and he knew it was important to develop strong leadership skills by getting involved. He has started clubs, participated on executive boards and has a clear understanding of what it means to lead by example and support his peers.” His hard work paid off in March, when he received an email from UC Berkeley. The memory remains etched in his mind.“I logged in and I saw confetti and the words ‘congratulations’. I was really excited, I felt relieved. After application season and doing all of those personal insight questions (PIQs), it all paid off,” said Elaion.
Driven by a Vision
Throughout high school Elaion had a clear view of his path to college, which he attributes to his school’s focus on college preparation. At Ánimo City of Champions, college was a part of the conversation from the very first day of school. “It was like okay, these are your A-G requirements, this is what they're gonna look for. They just gave us the whole rundown,” reflected Elaion. He remembers being constantly reminded of the importance of each year of high school. “They prepared us pretty early, they didn't wait until we were midway through high school.”
At Green Dot we are committed to help students reach-- and be well prepared for postsecondary success. Our schools help students identify their goals early on and support them in making meaningful progress towards achieving their dreams. In their first year of high school, Elaion and his peers were already building the foundation for their college application essays. “In ninth grade you start building your portfolio of your achievements. So when it comes to 12th grade and you're writing your PIQs and you need your list of achievements and stuff it’s already there,” said Elaion. Our schools break down the college application process into their component pieces and support students in tackling them one at a time. As a result, Elaion felt equipped to complete one of the most stressful and important parts of the college admission process.
Bright Future Ahead
In the fall, Elaion will take the next step in his journey to earn a college degree. “Going to college means having more opportunities to explore myself, grow, and learn because there’s a lot out there. College is definitely going to give me that chance,” said Elaion. He’s proud to be a first-generation college student and hopes his journey will inspire his younger brother to pursue his own dreams. Elaion wants to major in political science, an area of study he developed a passion for while taking dual enrollment courses at Ánimo City of Champions.
As he anticipates his first semester at college, Elaion is already thinking about his future. “I'm probably going to go to graduate school, or take the LSAT so I can go to law school because I want to become an attorney or lawyer,” said Elaion. “That's my future goal, so I'm starting to think of the steps I should start taking. My college journey is nowhere near over, but I’m ready for it.”
Four years ago we founded Ánimo City of Champions to provide families in the city of Inglewood with an additional high quality free public school option. Students like Elaion enter our schools with boundless potential and our job is to nurture and support the brilliance that lives within them and equip them with the tools to access the endless possibilities available to them. We are proud of Elaion and his many accomplishments and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. His story is a reminder of the importance of our mission to prepare all students for college, leadership, and life.