Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy alumna, Breanna Maldonado, has never been afraid of hard work. From taking advanced classes and dual enrollment college courses, holding a part-time job, and volunteering in her community, Maldonado has demonstrated that you can achieve anything with determination and drive. This year she received a full tuition scholarship to attend the University of California, Los Angeles. This accomplishment comes as no surprise to her peers and teachers, like Ánimo Watts Social Science Teacher, Luis Alvarez: “When you talk to Breanna, you quickly realize that nothing's going to stop her or slow her down.”
Desire to Serve
The driving force behind Maldonado's work ethic is her desire to lead a purpose driven life. She came to this realization in middle school, when she volunteered at a local non-profit to earn community service hours. Despite completing the assignment, Maldonado continued to volunteer. “I kept going back and they thought it was strange because I was so young. They were like ‘‘oh hey I thought you finished your hours’” chuckled Maldonado.
Since then, she has been involved with non-profit organizations such as Best Start Compton, I Heart Compton, and United Parents and Students. Through these experiences Maldonado was inspired to help work toward ending homelessness. “When we go and give out care packages, we talk to the people who are homeless. A lot of them feel alone and say they feel invisible,” reflected Maldonado.
Learning more about the marginalization people experiencing homelessness contend with, Maldonado knew she had to do more. Participating in Green Dot’s summer internship program helped Maldonado discover how she could maximize her impact and make a career of it. She once envisioned that her road to college would lead to a degree in architecture. While interning at architecture film, Perkins and Will she saw the creative ways architects were creating transitional housing to combat homelessness.
Fascinated, Maldonado began learning about the social, political, and financial challenges that often act as barriers to ending homelessness. “I started focusing a lot more on the idea of law and that geared me towards political science,” reflected Maldonado. While she enjoyed architecture, she began to see a political science degree as a means of serving the public and using her education to influence policy and help solve social problems.
The Journey Ahead
Over the past four years the educators and staff at Ánimo Watts have watched Maldonado become a compassionate and resilient young woman. In high school she took advantage of every opportunity available to her and pushed herself to achieve her goals. “She was accepted into so many prestigious colleges because she is so disciplined. In my class she would always be the person to not only ask for help, but also help others,” reflected Carmen Leiva, Math teacher at Ánimo Watts.
While her senior year of high school didn’t turn out the way she envisioned, Maldonado is grateful for the continuous support and guidance she received. “I really got to know my teachers and counselors. I had a close relationship with them and that helped me feel a part of a community,” said Maldonado. For Maldonado, being a part of a positive school community helped her thrive and overcome challenges: “During those difficult times, like when I found out my mom had cancer, I always knew I had someone at school and that helped me stay motivated.”
We believe that to help students achieve long-term success, schools must invest in the academic growth and physical and emotional well-being of each student. Our schools have built small and supportive college-going cultures where students feel challenged, valued, and accepted. When students attend a Green Dot school, they are embraced by a culture of high care and high expectations.