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.

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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Young Women’s Preparatory Network Announces New Board Chairwoman and New Board Members

Young Women’s Preparatory Network (YWPN) announces the appointment of a new chairwoman, Evelyn Henry Miller, and three new members to its board of directors: Christine Breck, Lisa Cooley and Stef Mauler. A nonprofit, YWPN’s mission is to support single-gender, college-preparatory, public education in Texas and beyond, giving young women, many of whom are the first to attend college in their families, the academic and leadership skills to achieve success in college and in life.

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Young Women’s Preparatory Network Announces its Valedictorians and Salutatorians

“Exceptional,” “bright” and “driven” describe the Young Women’s Preparatory Network valedictorians and salutatorians this year. YWPN supports seven all-girls public schools in Texas with private enhancements, and six of those schools just held their graduations. Grand Prairie’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy will graduate its first class in 2017.

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