Esmeralda Ortiz is running for the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees.
Ortiz grew up in San Mateo and said she is a proud product of its public school system. A first generation student, Ortiz attended UC Berkeley, UC Davis and the University of Southern California for bachelor’s, graduate and Doctor of Education degrees, respectively.
She is now in her twelfth year at the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, where she serves as vice president of its high school and postsecondary success program. Ortiz lives in Mountain View with her husband, who is a teacher at Mountain View High.
“I believe that my professional and personal experiences as a first-gen student who attended public schools in California and currently works with high school and college-age students [would make] my perspective a unique one that would contribute to the existing board,” Ortiz said.
Mental health and wellness
Ortiz commended the district for its handling of student mental health during and after the pandemic. She is a strong advocate for dual enrollment classes at local community colleges and said that many of her students at the Boys & Girls Club taking dual enrollment courses are less stressed than those taking traditional AP courses.
“There’s a lot more courses that the community colleges have that are not available on a high school campus,” Ortiz said. “So students have more agency to choose courses that are more culturally relevant or cater more to their specific interests.”
Ortiz also said she believes that the district needs to take into account the trauma that new immigrant students face when providing mental health and wellness services.
Ortiz said that her time as a first-generation student has shaped her perception of student resources and alternate pathways.
“I was in dire need of the kinds of resources I believe are available through the MVLA district, programs such as AVID and the ability to take AP courses,” Ortiz said. “At the time, [my high school] did not have an AVID program. … And so that has shaped how I view these resources and value them.”
She said she believes that her identity as a Latina woman will be crucial to achieving more representation on the board and conducting deeper outreach with Spanish-speaking families.
Ortiz said she thinks that students need to be better connected with resources so that they are aware of their options when deciding what field to pursue.
She described watching how her high-achieving sister, who took many AP courses and had an almost perfect GPA, planned on attending community college because she did not know she had other options. After a college counselor at their youth foundation urged her to apply to more schools, she was offered admission to most of the schools she applied to and ended up at UC Berkeley, where she thrived around like-minded, academic-oriented students.
“That experience made me realize just how much is needed to really bridge students to resources, especially when the district has [these resources],” Ortiz said.
To learn more about Ortiz, visit her website here.