Simone Grossley, an 11th grade student at Ánimo City of Champions Charter High School (CHA) has always had a strong desire to attend college. Even at a young age she viewed college as not only a way to attain more knowledge, but also as a means of improving her family’s social mobility. “If I move up, they move up, we’re a unit. I have to do my best and pave the way for my younger siblings, because I’m the one they are looking up to,” reflected Grossley. She will be the first person in her family to attend college and she will be doing so with the knowledge and tools to persevere. Thanks to dual enrollment college courses, she will also arrive with a semester’s worth of college credit!
A New Pathway to College in Inglewood
Green Dot has served the Inglewood community for nearly decades, preparing all students for college, leadership, and life. In 2017, in response to community need CHA was opened to provide the Inglewood community with an additional high quality public school option. Our work at Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School and Ánimo Leadership Charter High School demonstrated the power of meeting students where they are. Often times, students enter our schools below grade level in English and math. Though challenging, Green Dot educators are committed to advancing students multiple grade levels per year.
“There is no way educators can stay stagnant teaching at Green Dot, it's just impossible. I get coached twice a week on ways to reflect and become a better teacher,” said Briana Kramer, an English teacher at CHA. “My colleagues and I problem solve, like ‘I can't reach this one student, how are you doing that, and how can I reach them?’ That is just the culture of our community.”
Our educators meet students where they are by setting high expectations, focusing on each students’ needs and learning styles while leveraging a series of interventions and supports. To truly prepare all students for life beyond high school we know that addressing the achievement gap is not enough, we must also address the opportunity gaps prevalent in the communities we serve. In underserved communities, students often lack quality public school options and the educational resources and opportunities their more affluent peers receive. It is why our schools offers college tours to expose students to college culture, career fairs, academic counseling, college application workshops, and dual enrollment college courses.
To ensure that all students have access to a quality education and opportunities that will put them on the path for success in college CHA has partnered with Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC) to provide students with dual enrollment college courses. “It’s vital that we prepare our students for life after high school as early as possible, they can’t just wait until their junior year to start planning out their lives -- that's too late,” said Tyler Williams, counselor at CHA. “Our students have taken these classes as early as ninth grade and it’s given them a real college experience.”
Through this partnership, professors at LASC teach two college courses at CHA each semester. This collaboration provides students with the opportunity to learn new skills and earn credits that are transferable at both California State Universities (CSU) and University of California (UC) campuses. Students can apply their earned credits towards the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, significantly reducing the overall time and expenses associated with postsecondary education. “I’m grateful for this opportunity because people in college are paying thousands of dollars for these classes and I’m taking them for free, so I must take advantage of it,” said Grossley.
So far, Grossley has taken three college courses: Communications 101, biological psychology, and sociology. “When developing our dual enrollment pathway, it was really important for us to offer courses that would help students in their current classes and in the future,” said Williams. Though these classes were challenging at first, Grossley feels that they have made her a better student. “When I took communications my first year I failed my first assignment. I just didn’t get it,” admitted Grossley. She took the initiative and met with the professor after class to discuss the assignment and determine where she could improve. “On my next assignment, I received a C and on the following one I received an A! That made me really proud of myself because I worked through it and saw my progress.”
These courses have introduced Grossley and her classmates to additional academic challenges while further exposing them to a college environment and a higher level of instruction. “These professors don’t typically teach high school students, they teach college students and because of that they expect a lot from us despite our age,” reflected Grossley. Though intimidating at first, Grossley is thankful for this experience as it has given her a newfound appreciation for the high expectations her school has set for all students.
A Great Decision
Now in her junior year, Grossley is deciding what college she’d like to attend. “My mom really wants me to go to UCLA. During our school’s college tour I really enjoyed the campus and the overall vibe. We also visited USC and the campus was really beautiful, the people were nice, and I enjoyed the atmosphere,” said Grossley. While she’d be happy becoming a UCLA Bruin or a USC Trojan, she is keeping her options open. “Though it would be great to get into my dream schools, I know there are so many colleges out there.” The educators and staff at CHA have enjoyed watching Grossley grow at CHA and are excited to see what she accomplishes when she graduates next year. “Freshman year she was so quiet and I think she was uncomfortable in her own skin and over the last two years she's really grown and has found her voice,” said Williams. “Simone is really insightful she is a brilliant student who is very much focused on school, and also very passionate about her own education and the education of people in her community.”
Reflecting on her road to college, Grossley is thankful for the experiences and opportunities she was offered at CHA, in addition to the relationships she has established with her classmates and educators. “At first I wasn’t sure if I should go to CHA, because it was a new school and I’d be the first graduating class. Three years later I’m really glad I chose this school,” admitted Grossley. “This school has provided me with so many opportunities that I don’t think I would’ve received anywhere else. Everyone makes you feel like you’re family and I’ve formed bonds and relationships that I feel will be with me throughout my life.” When Grossley graduates from CHA next year, she will enter college confident in her abilities, better acclimated to college rigor, and a semester closer to completing a bachelor's degree-- paving the way for her siblings to do the same.