Behind the Desk to the Front of the Classroom: Young Women’s Preparatory Network Graduate and Teacher Shares Her Story

By Stephanie Aguilera
Irma L. Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy Alumna Class of 2009

This story originally published in the 2016 Young Women’s Preparatory Network Annual Report.

As a Young Women’s Preparatory Network graduate and current Young Women’s Prep teacher, I graduated from Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA) in the first class of our network. My classmates, our teachers and I experienced a unique set of challenges along the way, but we overcame them with persistence, passion and teamwork.

Founding Principal, Vivian Taylor and Young Women’s Prep founders, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Posey, led a strong staff to achieve their vision of preparing girls for success in college. I took a risk in joining this new school, because I believed I would receive the same challenge and rigor at a public school for free.

My first encounter with my 26 classmates and teachers at Irma Rangel was at summer camp. I honestly cannot remember much, but I can remember getting to know my sisters and receiving the “First Class Leaders” summer camp t-shirt (that I still own). I immediately noticed the Young Women’s Prep difference: Students were there to learn and challenge themselves. We were fueled on girl power and the goal of graduating from college.

The next four years proved to be difficult, but worth it. There were plenty of days when I wanted to quit and leave to have a normal high school experience. My teachers experienced those days with us, and to be honest, now that I teach at a YWLA school, I sometimes understand why.

When I return to Rangel as an alumna, and see the walls overflowing with pride, new organizations, and student leadership, I am proud to have struggled in our beginning years. Plus, we were catching the attention from districts, because we were succeeding in proving that public, single-gender education is empowering.

I knew the frustration and hard work were worth it when I was accepted to the University of Notre Dame. I am a first-generation, American-born citizen and a first-generation college graduate. My parents moved to the U.S. for me to get a good education and graduate from college. However, as much as they wanted me to go to college, they had no experience with the application and financial aid process. Thankfully, Mr. Posey pushed to apply out of state and my College Bound Advisor worked with us to make college a reality.

I joined the San Antonio staff after being placed in the San Antonio Independent School District by Teach for America (TFA). I majored in Political Science and Latino Studies and was upset with the lack of educational opportunities afforded to people like me. I was accepted to TFA and various law schools, but my end goal is to work in education reform or with an organization like Young Women’s Prep that brings innovative, high-achieving schools to neighborhoods, like the one in which I grew up. I am passionate about our network, because our girls deserve an excellent education and the doors that it will open for them and their families.

I decided to accept my TFA offer over law school and I plan to stay in education. When I found out I was being placed in a city with a YWLA campus, I emailed Principal Delia McLerran to let her know that I would be moving to San Antonio. The San Antonio school had not graduated its first class yet and I wanted to help, so she hired me before I could apply anywhere else.

As soon as I was hired, I reached out to my former teachers to let them know, and I visited with them for any advice or resources that they could share. They were more than willing to meet with me because we had already formed strong teacher-student relationships at Rangel. They had served as my mentors while I was a student, and continue to serve as mentors as a peer teacher. In addition to teaching middle school, I’ve coached sports, served as the student council founder and sponsor, middle-school math department chair, Class of 2020 class sponsor, and more. Together, we have accomplished a Blue Ribbon status in our first year of eligibility.

When 21 seniors crossed the stage in 2009 and became the first graduating class of Irma Rangel, we were humbled by our college acceptances and scholarships. In June 2016, YWLA San Antonio graduated its third class, and all 35 young women were accepted to four-year colleges with $9.5 million in offers of academic and merit scholarships. I am proud to be a part of this network, both as a graduate and as a teacher.

Grand Prairie ISD-UTA Partnership Takes Aim at Teacher Shortage

Written by Loyd Brumfield, Communities Reporter, Dallas Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE — Attracting qualified instructors is difficult — and not just because there’s a shortage of teachers, University of Texas at Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari said Friday.

“What we really have is a shortage of students who want to be teachers,” Karbhari said as his university unveiled a partnership Friday with the Grand Prairie school district to produce more teachers — especially those with bilingual and English as a second language, or ESL, training.

UTA officials, Grand Prairie educators and students were on hand at Grand Prairie’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy to unveil the Education & Leadership Preparatory Program, which aims to train students beginning in their junior year of high school to become teachers — with the pledge of returning to Grand Prairie for jobs.

Here’s how it works: Qualified students at Grand Prairie High School, South Grand Prairie High School and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy will earn dual-credit courses at their respective campuses.

After graduating, they must continue their studies at UTA and major in education. They would become paid teachers’ aides in Grand Prairie and be offered pending contracts as full-time GPISD teachers once they receive their degrees and certification.

During the dual-credit phase of the program, GPISD will cover the costs for students enrolled in the program. Once they get to UTA, their tuition and fees will be the same as other students, but they will be eligible for specialized grants for students who agree to teach in high-need fields after they graduate.

The program — which will begin this fall — will accept 100 students at first, based on essay entries and individual interviews. UTA is involved in a similar teaching program with the Arlington ISD.

“Teaching is a noble goal, but it’s not for the faint of heart,” GPISD Superintendent Susan Simpson Hull said during Friday’s announcement. “This program isn’t for those who can’t be engineers, who can’t be doctors or lawyers. This is for our thinkers, for our leaders.”

The program has been about a year in the making and started with a conversation between Hull and Jeanne Gerlach, UTA’s associate provost for K-12 Initiatives, Hull said.

“UTA has been a longtime partner with us,” said Hull, adding that all GPISD graduates are accepted to UTA on at least a conditional basis. “This kind of grew out of that relationship.”

Karbhari said his school is ” very proud of what we’ve done,” referring to the College of Education’s 24th ranking nationally for elementary teacher preparation, according to the National Center for Teacher Quality. “It all started with a conversation. We’re always asking ourselves, ‘How do we attract the best and the brightest?’ and programs like this help us get closer to answering that question.”

Several students from the Young Women’s Leadership Academy watched Friday as Hull and Karbhari signed a memorandum of understanding to get the program off the ground.

“My mom was a substitute teacher, and I always admired my teachers,” sophomore Jadan Bowens said. “I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a teacher, but I’ve never heard of anything like this until today.”

Two Young Women’s Preparatory Network Schools Are Named the Best in the Nation

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U.S. Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr., announced the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools yesterday. From the list of 329 schools across the nation, two Young Women’s Preparatory Network’s (YWPN) schools received the illustrious Blue Ribbon distinction: Margaret Talkington School for Young Women Leaders in Lubbock and Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA) in Fort Worth. These Texas schools join an esteemed list that includes its sister schools, Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and Young Women’s Leadership Academy in San Antonio—both of which received this honor in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

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Irma Rangel Students Gained Real World Experience Through Internships

(Dallas, Texas, September 23, 2016) – Students at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, a member of Young Women’s Preparatory Network (YWPN), gained real world experience through internships this summer. They worked at architectural firms, hospitals, nonprofit agencies and engineering and computer companies.

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NEC Computer Lab Ribbon Cutting Generates Press

Students at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, a member of Young Women’s Preparatory Network (YWPN), are able learn STEM more effectively in a newly remodeled computer lab, thanks to the NEC Foundation of America. The company redesigned the space and donated equipment. On August 30, 2016, YWPN held a ribbon cutting that generated plenty of media coverage, especially of Lesly taking apart and reassembling a computer in a record six minutes!

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Young Women’s Preparatory Network Hires Karla Loya-Stack

(Dallas, Texas, September 6, 2016) – Young Women’s Preparatory Network (YWPN) has hired Karla Loya-Stack as Chief Program Officer where she will develop and expand programs with a focus on Respect Starts Here – Listen, Learn, and Act, an anti-bias program pursuing empathy and equity through education. To date, YWPN supports more than 4,600 students in 6th to 12th grades at eight all-girls, college preparatory public schools in Texas.

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Newly Renovated Computer Lab to Boost STEM Learning for Young Women’s Preparatory Network’s Irma Rangel, Thanks to NEC Foundation of America


Students at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, a member of Young Women’s Preparatory Network (YWPN), will be able to learn STEM subjects more effectively in a newly remodeled computer lab, thanks to the NEC Foundation of America. The company donated a state-of-the art computer lab with new computers and technology as well as consulted on the planning of this 21st century classroom. This ribbon cutting celebrates the opening of the computer lab.


Earlier this spring, NEC Corporation of America President and CEO Shinsuke Takahashi toured the school with Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and saw the outdated computer lab/robotics room. As a result of YWPN’s involvement with NEC, the company worked with YWPN and Irma Rangel on the redesign of the space and the equipment needs, so that the students can better learn STEM skills to prepare them for STEM college majors and careers. This summer, two Irma Rangel students also served as NEC interns learning about IT and marketing as STEM education is one of NEC Foundation of America’s main focus areas.


WHEN:          Tues., Aug. 30, 2016, 10:30 a.m.


WHERE:        Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School

1718 Robert B. Cullum Blvd.

Dallas, TX 75210



  • NEC Corporation of America Juan Fontanes, Vice President of IT
  • Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa
  • Young Women’s Preparatory Network CEO Lynn McBee
  • Irma Rangel Principal Lisa Curry
  • Irma Rangel students and NEC IT intern, Lesly Z., who can take apart and reassemble a computer in 12 minutes.


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Largest All-Girls Public School Network in Nation Establishes Footprint in West Texas

(Dallas, Texas, August 22, 2016) – Young Women’s Preparatory Network (YWPN), the largest network of all-girls, public schools in the nation, and Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) opened its eighth school, Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA). The doors opened today—the first day of school—when 234 6th and 7th grade girls arrived at the first all girls’ public preparatory school in El Paso. YWLA will add a grade every year until the school has students through 12th grade.

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