BY SUSAN HEADDEN
Patty Berganza is a chatty 16-year-old with a mouthful of braces, a thick mane of black hair, and a lightning fast brain. The last of these left her so bored at her previous Los Angeles high school that she racked up more than 49 unexcused absences in one year and earned a reputation as a slacker. Despite her dismal grade point average and enormous gaps in knowledge, she was continually promoted to the next grade. She never thought about college, because nobody ever talked about it. Indeed, she says of her previous high school, “I don’t think my teachers even knew my name.” In many ways, Patty represented countless students who graduate at abysmal rates but who have the capacity to do infinitely better. Unlike others, she found a new school that has helped her reach that capacity.