Our Stories

Our Name's Origin

The name, Green Dot, originated in the 2000 presidential campaign. It promised to be the first in history to leverage the emerging power of the internet. To research the availability of new technology, an events-planning team that included our founder Steve Barr, pored over maps of the Los Angeles area and marked community sites with colored stickers to indicate levels of internet connectivity. Those with broad and reliable access to the internet were marked with green dots; those without access were marked with red dots. As the map filled with colored dots – indicating, in many cases, the viability of libraries, community centers, and schools – a stark pattern emerged. The core of the city of Los Angeles was red and it transitioned to a green suburbia. It was a stark visual reminder of the geographic inequity in resources and opportunities.

While most of those present focused solely on the strategic importance of the green dot neighborhoods, Steve Barr noticed the red dots; recognizing them as communities rich with an untapped potential that was largely disconnected from the city’s broader network of opportunity. This powerful visual of the green- and red-dotted map led our founder to imagine empowering communities by seeding small, personalized community schools in the city’s most neglected neighborhoods.

Green Dot was founded with the express purpose of connecting people with opportunity through education; to plug underserved communities into the city’s social and economic power grid; and to level the playing field by transforming those red dots to green dots.

In 2009, Steve moved on from Green Dot, but our founding mission is more powerful than any one individual and the organization has continued to grow in both impact and scale.

Our Origins

Every strategic decision that Green Dot has made since its founding has been fueled by the unique tension inherent in our mission: sustaining a model that consistently provides maximum benefits to our students while increasing the scale of our impact to influence systemic change.

In 1999, Green Dot Public Schools was founded to demonstrate an alternative model of public school education that could deliver better results with the same resources in the most underserved communities in Los Angeles. During the first five years, we opened five public high schools; among the first charter schools in the city.


Across the Green Dot network, many schools have the word Ánimo in their name. What does Ánimo mean? And why is it so important to Green Dot?

In Spanish, Ánimo denotes a call to action. It’s not a word that is easily translatable. It implies the act of reassuring, inspiring, or cheering someone on to overcome a challenge. Broadly, it means to have courage, to “Get up!”, “Get on with it!”, “Don’t give up!”. It refers to something or someone who stands strong in the face of adversity.

The word defines much of what makes our students and their families so exceptional. For many, the pursuit of college isn’t easy. The journey is often thwarted by the everyday experience of living in historically neglected communities with few resources to counter the impact of underemployment and high crime. Success requires determination, hard work, and the loyal support of family and friends. It requires ánimo.

Each year, nearly twice as many of our seniors graduate prepared to enter college as those attending neighboring schools. Their success, nurtured by the talent and tireless efforts of our teachers, leaders, and support staff, is built within our ánimo culture.

Green Dot opened its first school, Ánimo Leadership Charter High School, in 2000. Located in a neighborhood where only 3% of residents have a post-secondary education, the school now sends more than 90% of its graduates to college. However you translate it; that takes ánimo.

With ánimo, Green Dot courageously joins families and communities in supporting our students, inspiring them, and cheering them on towards greatness.

A Learning Organization

The ability to learn quickly from experience and adapt well is a core strength of successful organizations. Well-designed strategy, careful planning and execution need good feedback loops to ensure that we reflect, learn and improve constantly. Our communities deserve nothing less.

The narrative arc of Green Dot’s success would not be complete without acknowledging moments in our history when we have had to adapt quickly to correct missteps and ensure that our progress is constantly informed by Green Dot’s commitment to excellence. In this regard, the following instances stand out.

Green Dot Public Schools National

1149 S. Hill St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015

(323) 565-1600