How a 5k Run Changed This Student’s Life


Celeste Chavez, Ánimo College Prep Academy alumna and Race to College Scholarship recipient, always knew she wanted to attend college, but there was something she was afraid of: the cost.


At Green Dot, we know that a college education broadens students exposure to opportunities and enables social mobility. However, too often the price tag of a college education can act as a barrier to student success. To ensure that students like Chavez have access to additional resources Asociación de Maestros Unidos (AMU),  the teachers union representing our teachers and counselors in California and Green Dot worked together to create the Annual Race to College 5K Fun(d) Run.

This collaboration created an opportunity for the active Green Dot family to come together for a day of fun and a chance to further serve our students. “As an educator, my daily goal is moving students closer to college, so this is just another step in helping all students make their post high school aspirations a reality,” said Rachel Vira, biology teacher at Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School.

College Bound

Without a college degree, half of those raised in the lowest-income families will remain in poverty throughout their adult lives. But with a college degree, nine out of ten will escape the poverty of their youth. Yet, pursuing a college degree is more expensive than it has ever been. The Department of Education reported that over the past three decades, tuition at public four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation, further widening the opportunity gap. “Students want to attend college, but we all share the same worry, and that’s affording it,” urged Chavez. “We worry about the cost of tuition, how we will afford food, books, supplies, and of course how we will deal with student loan debt.” Growing up, Chavez witnessed her brother put his college education on hold due to financial constraints. So despite receiving good grades and scoring well on her SATs, Chavez questioned the likelihood of her own college dreams.

Though Chavez knew of scholarship opportunities, the possibility of winning one always seemed unlikely. “I almost didn’t submit my application, but one of my teachers encouraged me,” recalled Chavez. She was named the recipient of the Race to College Scholarship at last year’s Launch to College, an all-day event where graduating Green Dot seniors are celebrated, and prepared for their imminent college transition.

Committed to The Long Haul

We believe in the potential of each and every student to succeed in college, leadership and life. As such, our schools offer regular college tours, workshops to assist students complete additional college registration steps, and financial aid counseling. After high school, our alumni have access to additional supports in the form of summer workshops, support groups, University Mentors, and regular outreach.

Now a freshman at UC Davis studying mechanical engineering, Chavez is thankful for the Race to College Scholarship and opportunities like it.“This collaboration serves as a reminder that we are all part of a great organization that does great work. And whether someone is an administrator, a teacher, or a union leader we are all fully committed to the success of our students,” said Angel Maldonado, President of AMU. Though there is only one recipient each year, the Race to College Scholarship reminds students that all Green Dot educators are truly invested in their education.


Chavez continues to apply for scholarships and implores others to do the same. “College is really expensive, and yes, scholarship applications may take a lot of time, but you never know unless you try,” said Chavez. She remains thankful for the generosity of everyone who contributed to the Race to College Scholarship: “Thank you to everyone who [continues to] fund this scholarship, it made my transition into college easier and lifted so much weight off of my shoulders.”


You may also like: