Cinthia Montejano Advocates for SRHS Students


Kassandra Juarez, Contributor

As 8th graders are ready to enter high school, many are encouraged to sign up for the AVID class as an elective. The incoming freshman students and their parents may or may not be aware of the AVID program in SRHS, but the elective also collaborate with another program called CASS.

In 2016, both CASS and AVID collaborated for the first time to provide sufficient resources for all AVID students in every grade at SRHS. Starting the 2019 school year, the position of the new CASS Project Supervisor was taken over by Cinthia Montejano.

Both programs are very similar because they both want to help first generation students attend a 4-year university. The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program is designed to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in college. The program places special emphasis on growing, writing, critical thinking, teamwork, organization and reading skills.The College Access Student Success (CASS) program gives the opportunity for first generation students who come from historically underserved populations to prepare and apply for college.

Before taking the position, she was a long term substitute teacher at Venetia Valley. Having the hope of becoming a teacher at Venetia Valley, it was difficult for her to find an open position. Later, her boss at Venetia Valley heard about the CASS Project Supervisor position, in which he encouraged her to apply and wrote her a letter of recommendation.

“I talked to the Marin County Office of Education about this job and I immediately felt determined to obtain the role,” said Ms. Montejano. By stepping out of her comfort zone, she applied because her goal was to help students see themselves as capable, strong, and educated people who can make a difference in their communities.

She was interviewed by multiple staff members. These were Mr. Dennis (the school principal), Raquel Rose (Assistant Superintendent), Ms. Guerrero (Assistant Project Consultant), Ms. Kuehle (AVID Teacher), and Elizabeth Gonzalez (CASS Supervisor at Davidson Middle School). From the very start, she knew this was a group of people who work together for AVID and CASS.

Now as the new CASS Project Supervisor at SRHS, her job is to provide direct student and family support for the AVID students. She makes sure to keep constant and clear communication with students, families, teachers, counselors, and the administration team, so everyone can work together to ensure all students are receiving the support they need. Ms. Montejano wants to build a connection between students, families and their involvement in school.“A key component of this project is family engagement,”said Ms. Montejano.

Working with both programs, she is constantly involved with the students and their parents.

In high school, she struggled academically and didn’t feel supported by many of her teachers. From freshman to junior year, she had a high risk of not being able to graduate due to low academic grades. She had a tough time balancing with academics, peer pressure, family pressure, and her life at home. Reaching senior year, someone saw great potential in her and helped get back on track for graduation. She learned how to work hard and efficiently, seek help, manage time, and take mental health breaks. After graduating, she attended College Of Marin for 2 years and later received her teaching credential program at Sonoma State University. It was difficult for her, but she didn’t give up because she is determined to help students reach their goals.

Although Ms. Montejano is a Marin County Office of Education staff member, she feels part of the San Rafael High School community. She’ll often be found on-campus full-time so she can meet with students and help them create an academic plan or manage their time where they can seek for tutoring support.

Many AVID students had the chance to meet her and talk about their future plans for college. Jazmin Olvera, a senior AVID student at SRHS said, “When I first met her, I felt like she was a really shy person. As I talked to her, I realized that I can relate to her in many ways.”

Both students and teacher in the AVID and CASS program agree that Ms. Montejano is able to connect with each student as she, herself, is a first generation student to graduate from college. “Cinthia, is a native Spanish speaker from Mexico, former SRCS student, 1st gen college graduate, and is very much someone that AVID students will connect with,” said Ms. Guerrero, the CASS Assistant Project Consultant.

Ms. Montejano lived in Mexico until the age of 9 years old, where she then moved to San Rafael and began to start her new life in the Canal neighborhood. She attended Bahia Vista Elementary School then went to Davidson Middle School, began her high school journey at Terra Linda High, and became a graduate from Sonoma State University.

She shares her experiences of high school, college, and work with other students, so they know she is someone who went through it all and became successful. Her experience of having a helping hand to move forward in her academics inspired her to become a student advocate to help high school students.

“I If they can dream and set goals for themselves, work hard, and remain motivated, anything is possible,” said Ms. Montejano. She not only wants AVID students to know, but ALL students at SR to realize that all it takes is hard work and learning how to study to be successful and accomplish many goals.