This blog is the second in a year-long series written by students serving on the San Antonio Youth Commission. The San Antonio Youth Commission is a civic engagement platform for San Antonio High School students and is managed by the P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County. See all the posts here.
My name is Allura Guerra and I am a second year on the San Antonio Youth Commission. I am currently a senior at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA), an all-girls college preparatory high school in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) that serves as a middle and a high school.
YWLA was started in 2008 when the Foundation for the Education of Young Women partnered with SAISD after seeing impressive results in Dallas at the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, the first public all-girls school in Texas. At YWLA every student is expected to attend and graduate from a four-year college or university. The rigorous college-preparatory curriculum is highly focused on math science and technology, fields that are typically underrepresented by women.
In order to prepare ourselves for high levels of success in college, YWLA offers support services such as a college bound advisor, summer camps, tutorials, SAT/AP prep camps and much more. Our school is an AVID school that emphasizes Cornell note taking, Socratic seminars and higher level inquiry skills in all of our classrooms. Every student from YWLA is required to earn at least 100 service hours or more. Before graduation at YWLA this seemed like an overwhelming amount, but over the years service and leadership have become second nature.
Two years ago I saw the need for a student ambassador organization at my school, as student council was not actively present at the time. That same year, I founded Cardinal Senate, which is one of my big accomplishments of my high school career. This organization promotes service and leadership which is evident in the many community service projects that members participate in, as well as the functions that we attend in order to represent our school.
In the past we have attended and volunteered at the Women’s Hall of Fame ceremony, the Annie’s List luncheon and Elf Louise gift wrapping. The mission statement of the organization is “To uphold the highest personal standards set forth in our student handbook. To serve those in need, to set the example as student ambassadors and to inspire future generations of outstanding young women at Young Women’s Leadership Academy all while reaching the extraordinary educational goals we have set for ourselves”. The students that are selected to be ambassadors are handpicked by the principal from a group of applicants. All members of this organization are required to participate in at least one “teacher” service project each month as well as two community service projects each year.
Cardinal Senate is a highly selective organization that is prestigious in nature. GPA, attendance and demerits are all important factors that are considered when an application is being reviewed. I have been the President of the organization for three years now and I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills throughout the process. Working with other highly motivated students has taught me how to work well with others and what it takes to be an effective leader. My time management and communication skills have improved immensely and I am dedicated to making my last year as president one to remember.
The skills that I have gained from Cardinal Senate helped me gain acceptance into the San Antonio Youth Commission (SAYC) in the summer of 2015. Being accepted as a Youth Commissioner is another one of my accomplishments that I am extremely proud of. SAYC also promotes leadership and service specifically in the youth of San Antonio and serves as a type of student government for the city. We work together to brainstorm ideas on how to give assistance to teens in San Antonio in applying to college and searching for scholarships. We meet at Cafe College once a month and participate in group discussions, listen to guest speakers and plan community service events. In the past year we have volunteered at Ella Austin Community Center, the Martin Luther King Jr. March, and Elf Louise.
The commission has played a significant role in helping me develop my networking skills and I have learned how to effectively promote college and career readiness to teens in San Antonio. Being an active member of both SAYC and Cardinal Senate has presented me with opportunities I never would have thought to be possible. I have met City Council members, District Representatives, Senators, Judges, and. Becoming involved in both Cardinal Senate and SAYC have helped me realize that service and leadership is something that is important to me that I will continue doing when I go off to college.