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Strengthening Community Hubs, One Green Dot School at a Time — Now in Florence-Firestone

Animo Florence Firestone

As Green Dot Public Schools prepares to open a new middle school, Ánimo Florence-Firestone Middle School, in the fall, it isn’t hard to pin down why founding Principal Josh Hartford is excited about the new campus and community we are serving.

“With the middle school opening, we’re able to build upon existing relationships with other Green Dot schools, like Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School, and provide new opportunities,” he explains. “Opportunities like, mentoring relationships between the high school and middle school, and joint professional development.”

Located just three miles away, Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School (APB) is a trusted institution in the community and was recognized by US News and World Report as one of the top high schools in the country. Additionally, The California State Board of Education recognizes APB as a California Distinguished School, an award for schools that best represent exemplary and quality educational programs. Having served as Principal of APB for six years and founding Assistant Principal prior to that, Hartford is eager to create a pathway to APB from Ánimo Florence-Firestone.

7-year roadmap to college

“Between these two schools, we’re building a seven-year roadmap to college. We’re being intentional in preparing our students for college,” says Hartford.

Hartford’s not only excited about the possibilities, he’s also right in the middle of helping make those possibilities into realities.“Creating a middle school that feeds into the existing high school is something we’re pursuing because the community is asking,” he says, noting that Ánimo Pat Brown moved to its current location in 2009. Within just a couple years, he was hearing a question over and over: “When are we going to build a middle school?”

The time is now.

“Families have seen the impact that a Green Dot education has on their children and they want to send their younger students to a Green Dot school too,” Hartford says.

A staple in the community

A key to the new school’s success, Hartford adds, is extending Ánimo Pat Brown’s existing role as a community hub – a place where families can get a high-quality education for their kids, health and wellness services, mentoring, and supports to become activists for their neighborhood.

Continuing to build a strong community is a desire shared not only by the families who live in the neighborhood but also by individuals who work there. The educators who commute into the Florence-Firestone area have a passion to stay and work in the community.

Animo Florence Firestone

“We want to keep building strong relationships with the families here,” says Hartford. “We have families that have put 2, 3, 4 siblings through our schools and you can see the cumulative impact that a Green Dot education has on an entire family.”

“We’re creating a norm around going to college.”

Hartford acknowledges that there will be challenges as Green Dot opens the new school. “We’re asking parents to have a lot of faith and trust in us. Trust that we are still earning ,” he says. “We’re making sure to nurture our relationships with parents, while cultivating the trust we’ve built in the high school community. The hope is that the work we’ve done so far at the high school will trickle down to the new middle school.”


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