How Animo Legacy Supported This Alumna on Her Path to College

Adriana Figueroa_LGC

For Ánimo Legacy Charter Middle School alumna Adriana Figueroa, attending a small public school focused on academic rigor, individualized support, caring relationships, and connections made all the difference.

Now in high school, when Figueroa thinks about Ánimo Legacy, she recalls it being a new experience, one that differed from those of friends and family attending other schools. “I just felt more secure at Green Dot,” said Adriana Figueroa.

Ánimo Legacy Charter Middle School is a site of transformation where all students receive the resources and support they need to be successful. In 2011, Green Dot partnered with Los Angeles Unified School District to operate the middle school. At the time, Henry Clay Middle School was one of the lowest-performing middle schools in California. “It was slowly losing enrollment over time, which is a key indication that families no longer had confidence in the education that the school was providing to their students,” said Cristina de Jesus, President and Chief Executive Officer of Green Dot Public Schools California.

Under Green Dot’s leadership, Henry Clay Middle School split into two campuses, Ánimo Western Charter Middle School (WRN) and Ánimo Phillis Wheatley Charter Middle School (APW). Each school focused on addressing the unique challenges students in the community were contending with. During Figueroa's eighth grade year, Ánimo Western and Ánimo Phillis Wheatley unified to further catalyze educational growth on campus. The unification proved to be a success, further supporting students' academic and socioemotional needs.

Educators met students where they were, developing their academic skills and investing in targeted supports to fill in learning gaps and turn areas of growth into strengths. “For students who are below grade level, we double down on interventions,” said Annette Gonzalez, Chief Academic Officer at Green Dot Public Schools. “If you come into sixth grade and you are reading below grade level, you are going to get sixth grade level courses and literacy intervention or math intervention so that you can grow your skills.”

Since Green Dot’s arrival, enrollment and student outcomes greatly increased. The school soon began to demonstrate student growth that outpaced their peers across the state. According to CORE Districts, Ánimo Legacy students are growing more than 75% of their peers in ELA and over 95% of their peers in math.

Figueroa felt the impact immediately. “There are a lot of people that helped me on campus,” she said. “The security guards, the teachers, and the principal, and the people that take attendance.” When Figerora’s mom passed away, educators and staff rallied her, ensuring she had access to on-campus support and mental health support services. Now in high school, Figueroa is focused on her future and making her mom proud. “I am going to college because that is what I promised my mom,” said Figueroa.

At Green Dot, these educators work with school leaders and teachers to identify trauma in our students to develop long-term coping strategies, they also provide crisis and behavioral interventions and through their partnership with community agencies connect families with additional resources. At Ánimo Legacy, we have 1 school psychologist per 368 middle school students. In contrast, Los Angeles County's average ratio was 1 school psychologist per 959 students in 2019.

We believe that to truly prepare students for college, leadership, and life our small learning communities must simultaneously address students’ academic challenges and support their mental health, developmental and socioemotional needs.