Hispanic Heritage Month: CUSD Leader Serves Youth in Special Populations

Oct. 7, 2020
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Communications and Public Affairs

Monica Romero is the Director of Federal Programs with the Chandler Unified School District. She oversees the programs that support special populations within the CUSD student body, including English Language Learners (ELL), Families in Transition (Homeless), Indian Education, Migrant Education, Refugee Education and Title I. 

Born and raised in a small New Mexico town to parents of Mexican descent, Monica said her drive to learn and help others learn was instilled in her from an early age. 

“My mother and father only had elementary school education,” Monica said. “Their biggest drive in life was to be able to have their children graduate from college.” 

Education has been her passion ever since she began teaching after receiving her Master’s degree in Business from Arizona State University. She became a high school business teacher in Phoenix, and quickly moved through the ranks into school administration. 

“I became a principal in South Phoenix, and from there I wore a lot of hats working with juvenile probation.” Monica said. “I realized there were a lot of gaps in children's education that we needed to fill.”

After starting a family and moving to the East Valley, Monica made the shift to working as the Director of Federal Programs for Gilbert Public Schools before transitioning into the role for Chandler Unified School District. 

“It has been my forever passion to be able to help students get the resources they need and the confidence to understand that if they push hard enough and work hard enough, they can accomplish any and all of their dreams,” Monica said. 

The Importance of Heritage and Family Values 

In Monica’s world of special populations, it takes a strong commitment to community to help students achieve everything they can accomplish. She attributes the success of her students to Chandler’s own community values that remind her of her own heritage and what it was like growing up in a town of 500 people. 

“Part of our Mexican and Hispanic culture is all about family, respect for elders and respecting people who possess levels of wisdom and knowledge. And from there, those values are shared with the community to pass down that wisdom. Having those values instilled in me personally has helped me do what I do, and from a larger perspective, having those values instilled in our school system as a whole has made it so much more successful.”

“In schools, we develop plans with students for them to reach their goals, and we support them with tutoring opportunities, mentorships and programs. It takes a village to help students achieve what they are capable of — all of these amazing community organizations and nonprofits that we work with have stepped up to provide students with what they need. It’s amazing the number of students we have that graduate with so much on their plate outside of school. It’s due to the village. The schools themselves or the families on their own couldn’t be so successful alone.”

“I think that is really similar to the opportunities I had growing up. I grew up in a small town of 500, so everybody was closely connected and supportive of one another. I feel as if Chandler’s community has similar values, and I can say that is not how it felt in every district I’ve worked with. When students need backpacks or food or school supplies or clothing, somebody — whether it be a nonprofit or church or group of parents or the City of Chandler — steps up here and gets the students what they need,” Monica said. 

In her eyes, the opportunities available to students come from the people around them willing to lift them up. The children she works with may not know what they can do and achieve because they haven’t been presented with the opportunities from their own families outside of school. 

“A lot of these students don’t know that they could have opportunities to become an astronaut or a doctor,” Romero said. “It’s all about motivating our students to let them know they really can do it.”

The Fabric of Who We Are Strengthens Us

Monica said our heritage and diversity strengthen our abilities to connect with people from all walks of life and to work for the success of the entire community rather than only ourselves. 

“I’ve been with Chandler for seven years now, and I’ve seen the established culture of supporting the community continue to strengthen and grow more than any other place I have worked,” Monica said. “This is something we teach to our students and pass it forward. We have more than 60 different languages spoken by students in CUSD. We serve all walks of life and want to show every single one of them that whatever they want, they can do it.”

Join the Community: Connect with Chandler Nonprofits 

In our community, many of the programs and services that impact Chandler’s students in need come from organizations within For Our City – Chandler. For Our City – Chandler is a network of faith-based organizations, nonprofits, service organizations and businesses working with the City of Chandler together to help our residents with projects including Operation Back to School and annual holiday drives. 

To donate or volunteer to help the For Our City – Chandler network of organizations, visit them online to search for opportunities or donate directly.