Meet Student Leader: Ignacio Cervantes
My name is Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes and I live in the East side of Aurora, Illinois. The City of Aurora has a population of over 150,000 people, making it the second largest city in the state of Illinois. The city is divided by the Fox Valley River, therefore calling it East Aurora and West Aurora. East Aurora has a population of about 80% Latinos and most of the children attend School District 131, I was also one of those children who attended and graduated from East Aurora High School. Throughout my studies at District 131 I tended to be a shy student who always kept to himself, but once I started high school it all changed. I started to get involved and realized that if I tried my hardest I could create a change in my district and the community. My senior year in high school I decided to run for Student School Board Member to try something new. As I attended the school board meetings I kept noticing that all that was talked about was how our students were not succeeding academically, but nothing was being done about it.
After I graduated high school I decided to do what no 19 year old would probably think of doing, run for School Board Member of District 131. My goal was to promote more parent involvement and have the voice of the students be heard. My biggest challenge was having a hard time convincing parents, who are tax payers, about my goals because all they were worried about was their taxes increasing and going to the district(the district receives most of its money from tax payers who live on the East side of Aurora). I made sure that once elected my goal was to reduce the amount of spending and save tax payers money. The next big step was fundraising; I wanted to reach out to local businesses around the area to sponsor me. My decision for this was to show the community that I was able to attract local businesses to our district and show that they support our students. In my opinion, I really thought that having the support of local businesses, having flyers in their stores, having campaigns all over the city, and making calls to those individuals that could vote, would be able to help me during Election Day, but I was wrong, on April 4th, 2011 I lost by 33 votes. My loss was probably because most community members did not want to make a 19 year old making decisions for them, especially with the education of their child. This fueled me up and gave me motivation to prove those who thought I was too young and myself wrong. A day after Election Day, rumor spread that a lady who ran and won was not registered to vote. After months of doing an investigation the School Board was able to prove that she was not registered to vote. I turned my interest letter to the Board of Education and after a long interview process I became the youngest School Board member in District 131, at age 19.
As a new School Board member I knew nothing, but I was grateful that all the other 6 board members have been able to help me in anything. After a year as a School Board member I have been able to do a lot that will benefit our students. As being 1 of 2 Latino School Board Members in a group of 7 and being the youngest one who recently graduated from the district I have been able to relate to the students and parents to answer to their needs. I have been able to expose the Board more to the parents (a lot of our parents do not know we have a school board), have brought new extracurricular activities to the district creating the first ever involvement fair for student to know what activities are in our district, and listening to the concerns from teachers to students in the district.
As a student at Aurora University, president of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), a member of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc., and many other activities, many people ask how I handle a busy schedule and being the leader that I am today. It’s very hard, but managing a schedule and dedication is key in doing everything that I do.