This month's student representative to the San Diego County Board of Education has big plans for the future.
Stephanie Montero is going into 12th grade at Lindsay Community School this fall. Once she graduates, she plans to study cosmetology and business, open her own salon, and support her siblings.
The County Board of Education honored Montero as the student board representative for July.
Montero has overcome personal challenges to emerge as a leader at her school and in her community. She leads a group called Mothers United for Justice, Education, and Respect, or MUJER, that gives community presentations about human rights.
"Our struggles can be overwhelming, but they are temporary if we keep our eyes on what's important," Montero said. "If we know our history and where we come from, we know that we are strong, intelligent, and resilient."
Each month, the board recognizes a student from the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) Juvenile Court and Community Schools program at its regular meeting.
"In addition to giving the board a chance to honor a student, participation in the meeting also gives students like Stephanie valuable experience in leadership," said Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools.
Lindsay Community School is an education program SDCOE operates in partnership with Neighborhood House Association for teens in grades 9 through 12 who are parents or pregnant. Children of students at the school attend Lindsay Early Learning Academy, a preschool housed on the same campus.
Montero said her teachers have taught her that she can help promote change in her family, school, and community.
"They have shown me how to be a strong woman and a role model for others," she said.
SDCOE's Juvenile Court and Community Schools program educates nearly 5,000 students each year who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, Probation, or one of the county's 42 school districts. Services are provided at more than 20 sites across the county to students who are incarcerated, pregnant or parenting, in foster care, expelled, chronically truant, in drug treatment centers and group homes for neglected or abused children, and experiencing homelessness.
Photo: San Diego County Board of Education Member Rick Shea shakes hands with Stephanie Montero, the July student representative to the board.