How a NY Times Best-Selling Author Amplified Our Students’ Achievements

It’s not everyday that a best-selling author wants to document your road to college.

In his recent book Show Them You’re Good: A Portrait of Boys in the City of Angels the Year Before College, Jeff Hobbs depicted the senior year experiences of a small group of young men at two different high schools in the fall of 2016. One set of students attended our very own Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School in South Los Angeles, while the other set attended Beverly Hills High School. Hobbs explored their successes and plights through imagery, history, and events that have shaped their trajectories

In January, Green Dot Public Schools held a virtual panel and discussion on Hobbs’ book. The author was joined by staff from Ánimo Pat Brown; and two of the school’s alumni who were featured in Hobbs’ retelling: Tio Cortez, a fourth year Material Science and Engineering major at University of California, Riverside; and Luis Martinez, a fourth year history major at UCSB.

During the event, the alumni reflected on their road to college and their reaction to Hobbs’ retelling of their stories. “I never expected to have my story written on paper and published, and then ending up in the New York Times,” Cortez said. “It really hit me that our high school experience can be portrayed in a book, and [demonstrate] who we were at that time. And how we viewed school and college, while we were all trying to figure out what we wanted to do,” Martinez added.

It’s All About the Students

Since its founding in 2006, Ánimo Pat Brown has provided students from the Florence-Firestone neighborhood and surrounding communities with a high-quality educational experience and a school culture built on high expectations, support, caring connections, and relationships.

Looking back, both Cortez and Martinez believe their high school experience helped prepare them for academic success. “One of Green Dot’s strengths are its staff members and teachers,” Cortez said. “They were always pleased to work with us, they always seemed to care.” As a Green Dot student Cortez took advantage of several college and career preparation opportunities, including Green Dot’s student internship program, where he spent his summer assisting the network’s IT department.

Martinez has a longstanding relationship with Green Dot. Prior to becoming an Ánimo Pat Brown Gryphon, he attended Ánimo Jefferson Charter Middle School. “I really don’t know where I would be without the staff and teachers at Green Dot. They really focus on you, one-on-one, whenever you need it,” Martinez said. “Every single teacher that I had, including that senior year, kept pushing me to strive for even better and to put hard work into getting into a good college.”

Reminiscing on his time spent with our students, Hobbs was quick to learn how Cortez and Martinez prepared themselves for success. “The inward motivation of these students that I've gotten to know really well is strong. There’s a real yearning for knowledge and guidance from teachers on how to take advantage of those opportunities,” he said.

Why We Serve

While the experience and the book has been influential to the students, Green Dot educators and leaders have also been inspired by the narrative that Hobbs has created. As a former teacher and founding principal of Ánimo Pat Brown, Chad Soleo, the Chief Executive Officer at Green Dot Public Schools National felt reinvigorated. “I find this book affirming and challenging,” Soleo said. “This book reinforced the foundation of why we started Green Dot Public Schools over 20 years ago, and how and why we envisioned it. The work that Cristina de Jesus and her team have done in college persistence is really underscored here.” 

Cristina de Jesus, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Green Dot Public Schools California also felt inspirited. “Reading this helps me reinvest in what we do,” de Jesus said. Previously, de Jesus taught in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, where she witnessed disparities between students in education throughout the metro area. “I knew once I got to Green Dot I couldn’t leave. And it was always about creating a better education for the students in the communities we serve. And this book reinforces that this is what Ánimo Pat Brown is still doing today. And this is what schools across our network are doing, too.”

Green Dot Public Schools is dedicated to dismantling internal learning barriers that may inhibit the growth and academic success of all students. We are committed to providing high-quality instruction, academic support, and the tools necessary for college, leadership, and life.