When Arlette Lugo learned about the Marine Biology club at Ánimo Leadership Charter High School, the lifelong science enthusiast was ecstatic. There was just one problem. Lugo attended Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School (ODLH), a Green Dot school located 17 miles to the east in Boyle Heights. In Los Angeles traffic, the Marine Biology club may as well have been located in another state — or on an island out in the Pacific.
Lugo, however, was determined to get involved with the club, which connects students to unique opportunities, scholarships, and internships focusing on Marine Biology. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in science and did not intend to let challenges get in her way.
“Green Dot helped me realize that no matter what obstacles stand in your way, you always have someone there to help, and there will always be resources to make sure you never give up,” Lugo says.
It’s who you know
Sometimes, those resources turn out to be people. For Lugo, the first of those people was a longtime Green Dot staff member, Director of Development, Douglas Weston. During a tour at ODLH, Weston asked Ludo what she hoped to study in college. When he heard, he told her about the Marine Biology club at Ánimo Leadership Charter High School — and then he followed up by introducing her to the club’s faculty advisor, Mark Friedman.
Based on the recommendations of Lugo’s teachers at ODLH, Friedman didn’t hesitate in figuring out how to bring her aboard.
“Arlette expressed a deep interested in Marine science. She committed herself to attending the lectures, meeting us at the [Natural History] Museum, and then collaborating with members of our club,” he says. “Even though she did not attend our regular Thursday afternoon meetings, she was able to join us on Catalina Island for four days of marine science and recreation. She also maintained contact with other students in our club.”
Networking within the network
Lugo’s experience demonstrates Green Dot Public Schools’ commitment to fostering relationships between adults — teachers, administrators and other staff — and students.
“Key to what we do at Green Dot is provide our students with opportunities they might not be able to get elsewhere,” Weston explains.
“And that involves all of our staff getting to know our students so they can identify where those opportunities might be. Arlette just happened to show an extra level of initiative and drive to follow through with the Marine Science club. She’s a great example, but she’s not the only one.”
Confidence is key
Lugo says she knew she needed to take advantage of the broader Green Dot network and the opportunities available beyond her own campus.
“I’m so thankful for each opportunity I received at Green Dot,” she says. “If I did not go to Green Dot I would have never gotten to all these open doors that have inspired me to never give up.”
“I found a mentor who has shown me amazing opportunities such as internships and scholarships and has given me all the support I needed to believe that I do have a chance to be a marine biologist in the future.”
As she begins studying at Cal State Northridge, Lugo still knows exactly what she wants to do: transfer to the University of Southern California (USC) and continue studying Marine Science.
“Green Dot helped me prepare for these future experiences by having teachers who fully commit time to their students both educationally and personally,” she says. “A lot of the teachers and admins are like family to me. They really do treat you like a person, not just another student.”
After all, one day that student is going to be a scientist.