Leading by Example- Meet Ánimo Inglewood’s New Principal

After eight years of serving as the assistant principal, LaShawn Allen will now lead Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School as principal. 

Allen arrived at Green Dot with more than 15 years of experience in education. She joined Green Dot Public Schools California in 2012 when she enrolled into our Administrators in Residence (AIR) program, which is a fully-accredited leadership development program that amplifies rigorous learning in the classroom through collaborative school-based residencies and comprehensive professional mentoring.

In 2013, Allen began leading at Ánimo Inglewood as an assistant principal. Familiar with the community, students, and the school’s 20-year mission, Allen is excited to continue the legacy of excellence at Ánimo Inglewood.

Allen sat down to talk with us about Ánimo Inglewood, her leadership style, and what our parents, stakeholders, community members can expect this fall. 

The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity:

Q: What are you looking forward to most in leading Ánimo Inglewood?

A: I think most people know that I lead by example. But I also lead from experience. I remind my students that “I was you,” and I treat every student here like they are cared for.  

In addition, my biggest focus as a leader is asset based. I tell people about my story as an African American woman who majored in science, and I'm seen to some as a “unicorn.” Why isn't my story the norm for our communities, even though there's a lot of Black and Brown excellence that exists every day? How do we show that to the world? We have to continue to tell our stories.

Many of our students are gifted, and have gone on to attend Harvard and Brown. We have others that are gifted not just in academics, but with their leadership and advocacy skills. We serve those who are gifted in mechanics, who will sit and talk to me for an hour after school about my car. And seeing our students as being highly gifted, and having all these assets that they bring daily to our campus—that’s what I want the world to see.

I'm hoping I can lead our students so they can see that in themselves and just show the world.

How would you describe your leadership style? 

For me, it’s thinking as a collective. Anybody that knows me as a leader understands that I don't function or think in a silo. I’m always thinking about how we can connect as a village and a learning community. It’s an intersection of both academics and culture on our campus. When we uphold both simultaneously, we can create the greatness that we want to see in our kids and in fulfilling our mission of preparing our students for college, leadership, and life. 

I also want our parents to feel like they're part of this process. At Ánimo Inglewood, as a parent or guardian, you're trusting your child with us for most of the time of the day, and so your feelings, your thoughts, and your feedback is essential to me being the leader that I am.

I want all of my parents to know that I will be open to them, for them. 

What do you remember about the first time you walked on Ánimo Inglewood’s campus? 

It was 2013, and was very welcoming for myself as a new leader and trying to just hone my craft as a leader. The school community helped me to grow, and also just made me feel warm and welcomed all the time. 

What do you think makes Ánimo Inglewood unique? 

It’s the love and the investment that our teachers have in everyone on our campus. We all just do what’s right for our students. 

And every year I meet what I call “lineage students,” where I meet students that are connected to other students. Like, this year during Senior Bridge, I asked the students if they had a relative who went to this school. Most of them say that they had a brother, cousin—or someone else who went here before them. That really says something about our foresight and our connectedness. Our students can really feel the environment, and that’s why we have alumni coming back to visit and volunteer every year. 

What’s your favorite memory at Ánimo Inglewood?

I just think about all of these moments we’ve been able to share together. One thing I love every year is how big Pi day is for our math department. We really include all of our students and have them fall in love with the number Pi. 

The other thing that I find most inspiring, outside of our graduation ceremony, is that many of our seniors participate in the Get Lit poetry program. Our students go against other students across the county in a poetry slam.It's just beautiful to see students that you’ve known since ninth grade and listen to the things they share during the competition. 

When I look back, it’s like every moment is just watching your family blossom, showing the world who and what our students are.