Why Sarai Traveled Two Hours a Day for School


This piece is part of Faces of Growth, a series of profiles that underscore the importance of looking at student performance and school effectiveness through the lens of growth, and not just absolute achievement. This series provides an opportunity to celebrate our students’ hard work and our educators’ tireless dedication.

Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School (APB) alumna Sarai Flores is one of the many students whose academic trajectories have been dramatically changed since they arrived at a Green Dot school. “I was not a very good student; I felt like school wasn’t important, but my mindset changed when I came to APB. I went from failing all my classes to getting mostly As,” reflected Flores.

In 2015, when Flores was in eighth grade at a nearby middle school, she scored Level 1 on both the SBAC English and math exams, demonstrating just third grade proficiency in both subjects. Three years later, in her junior year at APB, she met proficiency in both English and math on the SBAC exam and was back on grade level in both subjects -- she grew eight grade levels in just three years!


Flores attributes her growth to the culture at APB and the level of supports offered by her teachers. At APB, Flores knows she belongs. She has strong relationships with all of her teachers and is encouraged to ask questions and seek help, elements that were absent in her previous school. “At my previous school, you wouldn't really interact with your teachers--you’d just go from one period to the next. It honestly didn’t feel like the teachers wanted students to succeed, but at APB, every teacher believes in you.”

APB has served the Florence-Firestone neighborhood and surrounding communities of South Los Angeles since 2006. The school serves over 600 students, 99 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. A tenet of school culture at APB is that healthy, caring connections and relationships with others on campus are vital to the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional success of students.

Flores commutes over an hour on the bus from the city of Bell to be part of that school culture. Initially it seemed a great distance, but her family knew she needed a better option than those in her neighborhood. The choice has paid off.

While her growth didn’t come overnight, Flores demonstrated grit and determination. She stayed after school and took advantage of office hours to seek additional support and guidance. At home, she’d review class notes, study, and practice until she had a solid understanding of the material. “Knowing that all my teachers cared and were giving their all to help me, I knew I had to give something back,” recalled Flores. That ‘something’ was her best efforts.

“Knowing that all my teachers cared and were giving their all to help me, I knew I had to give something back,” recalled Flores. That ‘something’ was her best efforts.

Before attending APB Flores didn’t think about college; no one in her family had ever attended, and it never seemed like a real possibility. College is now a reality, and in the fall of 2018, Flores was accepted into San Diego State University where she hopes to study medicine. “It's surreal--I’m actually going to be the first person in my family to attend college this fall.”

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