Meliza Arellano (R), is an 11th grader at a New York City charter school called Democracy Prep. When Meliza started there four years ago she was below grade level in both math and reading.

She was put in a class that helps students like her get up to speed. Her teacher was Sarah Benko (L).

The pair recently sat down for StoryCorps to look back on Meliza’s 7th grade year — the year she became a serious student.

Originally aired November 27, 2011 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.