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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.

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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Respect Starts Here Generates Media Interest

Thank you to all that were able to join us at our Respect Starts Here Reception and Art Exhibit on May 4th! It was a wonderful conclusion to the first year of Young Women’s Preparatory Network’s empathy building, anti-bias program. We are so grateful for all of the incredible support and well wishes from those who were unable to join us, and we hope you can enjoy the event through the photos and news coverage.  Please click the following links: Dallas Morning News VideoNBC5 DFWDallas WeeklyDallas ISD The Hub Article, and Dallas ISD The Hub Video.  You may view additional photos on the Young Women’s Preparatory Network’s Facebook page by clicking HERE. Please call 214-824-1400 or email RSH@ywprep.org for more information.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Authors Nicholas Kristof And Sheryl WuDunn Explain The Power Of Books In Achieving Success To Students

BY JEANNE PREJEAN

Authors were abounding in Dallas on Tuesday, March 22. While noted historian Dr. Todd Longstaff-Gowan was at the Dallas Museum of Art for Art In Bloom, husband-and-wife Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn were talking with joint gathering of the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy about the power of books. Here’s a report from the field:

Article appeared in My Sweet Charity on 4/11/16.

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Lynn McBee: Philanthropist and Scientist

Lynn McBee is both. She moved to Dallas after graduating from the University of Texas with a biochemistry degree almost 25 years ago, and has been a philanthropic force in the community ever since, her board service totaling 26 different nonprofits and organizations. The two worlds – philanthropy and science – have collided in unexpected ways for her.

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YWLA Senior Nadia Balderas Headed to Yale

By BEKAH MCNEEL

On Dec. 14, 2015, the halls of Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA) buzzed with excitement. The results of early action applications trickled in, and one student after another logged onto the portals of their top choice schools to find out if they had been accepted.

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Real-World Schooling

by Lynn McBee

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, YOUNG WOMEN’S PREPARATORY NETWORK

When I attended high school, I learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, with a few practical classes thrown in for good measure. I was a lover of science and nature and curious about everything, but there was no outlet for me to explore my interests beyond the classroom, except for a periodic science experiment in the lab.

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