Grad Story: Charter Schools Made the Difference for Me

lead image

Madison Tlatenchi graduation photo with chartergrads logo.

I feel like I am on the edge of reaching my full potential. I just accepted my offer of enrollment from University of California, Irvine for their political science program. I am beyond excited for this next chapter of my life and working towards becoming an immigration lawyer so I can advocate for immigrants, like my parents, who just want to be stable and secure and provide for their families. As the first in my family to go to college, I feel more pressure to be a good example for my younger siblings, but at the same time, I am that much more motivated to succeed. I will do my family proud because of the legacy of persistence in attaining excellence that began in elementary school at Rocketship Los Suenos and Rocketship Spark Academy.

I am one of five children. My parents immigrated to California from Mexico in search of better economic opportunities and to build a family. My siblings and I grew up in East San Jose. My older sister went to all the local neighborhood schools, although all my younger siblings attend charter schools now. But I was the first in my family to attend charter schools instead of local district schools. This key difference in my early education is the platform I needed to be the first sibling to reach college. 

My parents don’t speak English very well, so they wanted to be able to rely on my school to give me the academic support I would need to be successful. I attended Rocketship Los Suenos from 1st to 3rd grade and then Rocketship Spark 4th and 5th grade. All my teachers were friendly, and my family has had nothing but stellar experiences with all my Rocketship teachers. But Ms. Yu, my 5th-grade teacher at Spark, stands out in my mind even today. She really believed in me and my classmates and never had doubts about our ability to succeed. She pushed us every day to the best versions of ourselves and motivated us to reach our full potential. She, like all my other Rocketship teachers, told us that we could make it to college.

Rocketship’s core values have really opened doors for me in terms of my potential. I loved that I could take elective classes as an elementary student, a perfect way to live out the Rocketship Spark core value of curiosity. I took so many classes like art and sports, but my favorite class was chess. I had never played chess before, but my teacher taught me how and I immediately fell in love. I got so good at it, too, and I still play today. In fact, my teacher gifted me one of my most prized possessionsa chess board, just for me. Other Rocketship core values like responsibility, respect, empathy, and persistence inspire me until today and are part of the reason I want to advocate for others in immigration law. I know this is what my mom wanted for me all alongto be able to explore the wider world in the classroom and learn more about myself, my abilities, and my potential.

I carried many of the values and habits I learned at Rocketship through middle and high school. At Landing, we were rewarded for good behavior, which incentivized my classmates and me to make the right choices. We got used to helping each other, being a good school citizen, and being leaders. My teachers encouraged me with public speaking and praised me for speaking up and answering questions, even if the answer was wrong. When I went to KIPP in 6th grade, the expectations that Rocketship held aligned with the school culture in my new school. Even as the coursework got harder at every grade level, I felt really prepared to tackle it, both academically and socially. I credit Rocketship with building that solid foundation for me. When my classmates and I went on college tours at UCLA and the University of Southern California in 8th grade, I was really able to imagine myself going to class and living in the dorms as a student. Just over four years later, that’s exactly what I’m about to do.

I am so happy that my mom chose to enroll me at charter schools. I can honestly say that attending charter schools has prepared me mentally for college and given me the path to get there. I can really see the difference in opportunities given to those who attended our neighborhood schools and those who attend schools like Rocketship. I am truly blessed and can’t wait to complete my postsecondary education so I can give back to my community and help others.


Madison Tlatenchi is a graduating senior at KIPP San Jose Collegiate High School. Her blog post is part of our 2022 #CharterGrads celebration. Join us in celebrating the Class of 2022!