College Preparedness Shaped This Student into a Bonafide Leader

Valentin Castillo

Growing up, Valentin Castillo knew he wanted to go to college and serve his community, but he didn’t know how. That path became clearer once he attended Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School, a public college preparatory school serving the Florence-Graham neighborhood of Los Angeles. 

Castillo will be the first of his family to attend college. Aware of the obstacles first-generation students encounter on their road to college, he saw attending Ánimo Pat Brown as an opportunity to receive a high quality education and develop the life, study, and leadership skills necessary for success in college. “I’m the oldest. I’m the one who has to set the example,” Castillo said. “I’m the one that should try to aim for the highest, so my siblings can do the same thing—or even better than me.” 

Castillo took advantage of Ánimo Pat Brown’s intrinsic close-knit community campus, advanced classes, enrichment opportunities, and abundance of college-ready resources to pave the road to college. An avid learner, Castillo loves math, and he has taken several advanced placement classes. Confident and excited, he has submitted his college applications to University of California Riverside, and Merced—along with a list of California State University schools. Actively finding ways to give back to his community through his education, Castillo plans to study law enforcement.

One opportunity has been Ánimo Pat Brown’s Expository Reading Writing Course, an additional class where teachers prepare students for academic reading, research, and writing. Students—especially first-generation college students— gain a solid foundation of study skills needed to complete college coursework.  Ánimo Pat Brown also has dedicated class periods for students to complete college and scholarship applications. Each teacher is involved in the students’ path to college. “It’s like every teacher knows everybody here. There’s a lot of support behind everything that you want to do,” Castillo said.

Helping His Community

Through his active participation inside and outside of the classroom, he has learned about time management, consistency, and persistence. “Ánimo Pat Brown has helped me to become a leader and a stronger individual.” 

Green Dot’s academic model equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary for success beyond high school. In addition, our model cultivates the growth of socially conscious and civically engaged young adults.“My parents came here not just to be here, but to have a family who could get an education and then help others.”

Naturally ambitious, Castillo has become more involved in his community after enrolling in Ánimo Pat Brown ’s advanced placement government class in Fall of 2019.  He learned how his local, state, and federal government worked; and about California propositions that could immediately impact his friends, family, and neighbors—such as proposition 187. The students in the class, taught by Ánimo Pat Brown’s longtime government teacher Joel Snyder, have learned through a series of community-advocacy books, podcasts, and projects. 

Castillo firmly believes that change in his community starts with creating coalitions, bringing awareness to issues, and persistently contacting representing elected officials. “If you stand up on your own and you gain the support of people, the community will help out,” Castillo said. He believes that his school, Ánimo Pat Brown, is a kernel for change. “It’s full of great people that want to see change in the community and want to do good for others,” he said.