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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 9:27 pm | Fair 53º


School Board Member-Elect Monique Limón Focused on Closing Achievement Gap

Santa Barbara native, who will take office Tuesday, plans to draw from her own experiences to help students and shape policy

More than 25 years ago, Monique Limón was learning English at what is now known as Harding University Partnership School, working her way through the Santa Barbara School District. Now, the newly elected Santa Barbara school board member, who takes office Tuesday, will be making policy changes that affect students just like her.

Limón, the daughter of immigrants, grew up in a Spanish-speaking household with parents who always juggled multiple jobs.

“I think that the interesting thing is that I was one of the students,” Limón told Noozhawk. “I knew how to speak English conversationally but not great academically.

“As a child, you’re not always fully aware. ... You’re pulled away from class and you wonder why that was happening.”

In third grade, Limón transferred to Cleveland School and eventually moved on to Santa Barbara High School, where she entered GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) classes.

She said that throughout her schooling, teachers spent extra time with her and her parents to help her climb the educational ladder. She now strives to manage federal funding revenues so teachers continue to administer before- and after-school programs to amend one of the biggest problems in education: the achievement gap.

“My academic and professional background in education has allowed me to focus on achievement access equity,” Limón said. “I want to help students and parents learn about existing programs and make the educational pipeline more inclusive.”

Schools such as Santa Barbara Junior High, which Limón attended, are instituting two-week achievement reviews to help teachers realize what works and what doesn’t, coupled with classroom observation and after-school college preparation. Limón utilized the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara to help fund her bachelor’s degree from the Berkeley Graduate School and a master’s at Columbia University for her education in teaching.

Now, she said she wants to use her experience to help students navigate the academic system.

“We run into folks with the best intentions but who have never walked in the shoes of students or families. In certain ways I have, and it helps me relate to the cross section of students,” Limón said. “It’s still challenging for parents who have multiple jobs to get involved with school and understand the school system. I want to facilitate that understanding.”

After earning her degree from one of the top teaching graduate schools, Teachers College at Columbia, Limón has worked with California’s Student Opportunity and Access Program, helping students from similar backgrounds use the right tools to be academically and financially able to succeed through school.

She coordinated the Parent School Partnership program, financial aid workshops for all high school seniors and parents, and currently works for UCSB, where she manages an Education Department program.

“With the situation with the UCs, an 8 percent tuition increase doesn’t make it easier,” Limón said. “What types of ways can I help them navigate through these challenges and give students and the community the skills to navigate their own way?”

Aside from her professional experience, Limón draws motivation from her family to make a difference on the school board.

Limón is one of the oldest of her 36 cousins and said she has learned from her parents’ dedicated work ethic. During her campaign, one of her youngest cousins counted the number of lawn signs she passed on her way to school.

“Mom, I think I’ve decided I’m going to run for school board when I get older,” she said.

Limón was the first person in her family to get a college degree and run for public office. She wants to ensure that her family has the confidence to advance and follow her footsteps.

“Hopefully a new generation of family members believe it’s not out of sight because they know someone who did it,” Limón said. “I feel a shared responsibility to ensure that I’m able to help my family in whatever they do so they can have those opportunities.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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