My Journey to Stanford: Turning Goals Into Reality


Jocelyn Maceda Orduna, a Class of 2020 graduate of Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School (APB), will never forget the day she learned that she’d be spending the next four years of her life at Stanford University. On this day, Orduna nervously hovered her finger over the application status notification, unsure if she should open the message. In hopes of softening the blow of bad news, earlier that day she told her sisters that she wasn't accepted. “I had already checked my status at other schools and I had been rejected. So I didn't want to get my hopes up,” said Orduna.

When she was alone she opened the message and couldn’t believe what she saw. “I just, I froze. I didn't know how to process it. My sisters immediately called my parents and they started cheering ‘You’re going to Stanford’,” reflected Orduna. ”And like just hearing them say that, was honestly one of the best feelings ever. Because I knew that is what they wanted for me and I knew that they were probably happier than even I was.”

Road to Stanford

Orduna always knew she wanted to become a doctor. With endless support from her family who at every step of the way reminded her that anything is possible with hard work and determination, Orduna began charting a course for success at a young age.

“I always had this idea in my head, so since a young age I was thinking about where I wanted to go to college,” reflected Orduna. She knew a college education was essential if she hoped to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor, but more importantly she knew she owed it to her parents. “My parents have always struggled, but they've always tried to give us the best life they could. And the only thing they asked of my sisters and I was that we go to college.

It was at APB that she realized she wanted to attend Stanford. “At Pat Brown they really start you off thinking about college early on in ninth grade. Their goal is to help us get into a good college,” said Orduna. “So being the overachiever I am, I decided that I wanted to go to Stanford University.”

Working Towards Her Dream

APB like all Green Dot’s schools ensure students have access to equitable resources to address the additional obstacles students in underserved communities encounter on their road to college. Over the course of her four years at APB, Orduna worked tirelessly to earn high marks in her classes. She enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment college courses. She played on athletic teams and with the support of school staff, joined a volunteer program at a local hospital.

Despite her strong extracurriculars and outstanding academic record Orduna began to doubt herself during her senior year. Orduna recalls feeling discouraged about the prospect of attending Stanford. She knew that she was competing for a seat at one of most prestigious universities in the world, one that traditionally only accepts about 5% of applicants each year. “I didn't think I was going to make it. We’re a low income family and a bunch of really excellent students are applying to these schools,” admitted Orduna. “A lot of them have tutors, they might go to private schools, and they have a lot more resources than I ever have had access to.”

In spite of the tireless work she put into getting into Stanford, Orduna was beginning to feel like she didn’t belong at the university, and she nearly didn’t even apply.Through the personalized counseling support and strong relationships with educators she was able to realize that she did in fact belong at any university she hoped for. “APB provided a safe space for Jocelyn but she has always been a bookworm and understood college-level concepts. I think her growth has been in knowing herself, in prioritizing her time, and in choosing her cohort wisely,” said Miguel Sandoval, US History Teacher at APB.

Reflecting on this experience, she’s grateful for the educators and counselors at APB. It’s one of the reasons she is excited for her younger sister to attend the school next fall. “The teachers, they really listen to you. When you have things that you're struggling with, if it's academic or personal problems, they are there to help you,” said Orduna. “And my counselors Ms. Ramos and Ms. Reyes, they helped me get through a lot. They were always supporting me, they always made themselves available to me and that's honestly one of the best things anyone could have at a school.”

At Green Dot our educators work to understand the struggles our students face and seek to ensure that each of them feels supported and empowered. “It takes a village to help our students navigate the uncertainty on their road to college. Our entire APB staff is here to listen and provide guidance to our students who may have fears, questions, curiosity about college, leadership, and life,” said Hiliana Ramos, a counselor at APB. The ‘Road to College’ signs hanging over the doors of each Green Dot classroom are more than just decoration. They serve as a symbol of the commitment our schools and educators have taken to preparing students for the academic rigors of college and ensuring all students receive the tools and support needed to cultivate a strong sense of self.