This piece is part of Faces of Growth, a series of profiles that underscore the importance of looking at student performance and school effectiveness through the lens of growth, and not just absolute achievement. This series provides an opportunity to celebrate our students’ hard work and our educators’ tireless dedication.
When Le’Trianna Coleman began her freshman year at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy High School (RVLA HS), her GPA was well below what she knew she could achieve. Her mother attributes the low performance to Coleman’s predisposition to school in general: “She felt really negative about school while she was in middle school,” shared Relasha Coleman. “We had gone through a lot as a family, including losing her brother two years ago.”
In addition to experiencing difficulty outside of the classroom, Coleman required special support in her classes. “Middle school was hard for me because I felt out of place,” explained Coleman. “In seventh grade, I was so angry and frustrated, and felt like no one understood me. In eighth grade, I calmed down, and I decided to find a school that would help me be the person that I wanted to be.” Within a month of searching around, Coleman decided to become a founding student at RVLA HS, where the first class of freshmen began in the fall of 2018. “Le’Trianna is one of my shining stars at RVLA High School,” said Arneidra Lloyd, RVLA HS principal. “She began working with me during the founding year as an eighth grade Student Ambassador.”
“I never really thought about college until this year. It wasn’t on my mind, but once I got here, I learned I want to go to an HBCU or to UCLA because I know I’m smart enough."
-Le'Trianna Coleman, freshman at RVLA HS
Mrs. Coleman has seen a marked change in her daughter. “This year, she’s gotten so into her education. I see happiness in my daughter, and not anger and frustration.” Le’Trianna Coleman’s growth is irrefutable: in less than a year at RVLA HS, her GPA has grown a full point, and she's transitioned out of classes for students that need extra support into several honors courses. In addition, she surpassed her growth goals in reading, moving from a sixth grade reading level to an early 10th grade reading level in just seven months. Furthermore, Coleman’s vision for her own future became clear upon attending RVLA HS: “I never really thought about college until this year. It wasn’t on my mind, but once I got here, I learned I want to go to an HBCU or to UCLA because I know I’m smart enough. I didn’t have the same mindset I have now.”
True to Green Dot’s mission, RVLA HS is preparing Coleman for not only college, but for leadership and life as well. In addition to growing academically, Coleman has shown significant growth as a student leader. “Once she began as an official RVLA High School student, she continued to harness and cultivate her natural leadership abilities. Despite obstacles she faces outside of school, she has been a true role model for other students,” said Lloyd.
The shift in her daughter has brought Mrs. Coleman a lot of joy: “It was so special to me to come to her first semester review with her teachers and see my daughter crying because she didn’t think she could do it.” She attributes the change in her daughter to the positive, college-going culture and small, supportive classroom structure at RVLA HS. “She feels really comfortable communicating with all of her teachers and being in class. All it took was knowing her support at school was strong.”
Another catalyst for Coleman has been a series of guest speakers hosted at school called Panther Talks. “Meeting other women at Panther Talks who are outspoken and who have accomplished so much has been really eye opening to me,” reflected Coleman. “They have made me grateful for the help I’m receiving. RVLA has helped me find my voice, be outspoken, and not procrastinate.”
Both Coleman and her mother say the same thing about RVLA HS: “It’s like a family.” Coleman elaborates: “This school is not just for education, it’s a support system. Ms. Lloyd is like a second mother to me. She’ll get on me when I’m procrastinating. She’ll pull me to the side and remind me how hard I’m working. It pushes me to work harder.”
Her mother even sees her daughter’s peers growing because of the close knit school community: “I’ve noticed a lot of kids that went to the same middle school as Le’Trianna and are now going to RVLA are excelling. I have other children that go to [a nearby traditional high school], and it’s crazy.”
RVLA HS will continue to grow next year, introducing its second class of freshmen that will build the Panther Family. “RVLA High School students like Le’Trianna give me the fortitude to continue to build a great school where students are the priority and come first in every decision,” shared Lloyd. The RVLA HS team has worked hard to ensure the school is a place where all students are given the academic and socioemotional supports they need, while also providing opportunities to grow as a responsible young adult.