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L.A. Unified Honors Cindy Montañez, Latina Trailblazer, in Celebration of Latino Heritage Month (09-12-23)


Contact: Megan VandenBos


LOS ANGELES, CA (September 12, 2023) — The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education commemorated Latino Heritage Month with a rousing performance by the Mariachi Los Tigres de San Fernando High School and a warm recognition of San Fernando City Council Member Cindy Montañez. Board Member Kelly Gonez authored the resolution to celebrate Latino Heritage Month, which passed unanimously. 

Ms. Montañez has been a longtime advocate and public servant for her community in the San Fernando Valley. She became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council of the City of San Fernando at 25 and the youngest woman elected to the California State Legislature at 28. As part of the California Assembly, she became the first Latina and first Democratic woman to chair the Assembly Committee on Rules and championed bills to protect children, workers’ safety, and consumers including through the landmark Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights.

Throughout her career, Ms. Montañez has made environmental justice a priority in her campaigns and legislative work, setting an example for other leaders that has only grown in importance in the face of the climate crisis. In her current role as Chief Executive Officer of TreePeople, she has championed environmental justice and secured $150 million in California State Budget for school greening, which is funding numerous projects at Los Angeles Unified schools. She further serves her community as a Council Member of the City of San Fernando.

“Ms. Montañez embodies many of the qualities we seek to teach our students, including dedication, hard work, a strong moral compass and a commitment to community and improving the lives of others,” said Board Member Kelly Gonez. “It’s incredibly meaningful to recognize such a trailblazing Latina leader as part of our school district’s celebration of Latino Heritage Month. Ms. Montañez is an inspiration to the students of L.A. Unified and the leaders who have followed in her footsteps.” 

“Southern California has been shaped by the incredible culture, experiences and contributions of the Latino community,” said Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “Los Angeles Unified is reflective of this impact and we celebrate the amazing employees, students, families and the wider school community. We are honored to represent and support our Latino families.”

“In the Los Angeles Unified School District, where Latino students make up nearly 78% of the population, Latino Heritage Month is a vital recognition of the immense contributions and cultural richness Latino Americans bring to our nation and a perfect opportunity to celebrate and honor Cindy Montañez, without whom UCLA might not have a Department of Chicano studies. Her trailblazing work — across education, the environment and especially consumers’ rights — has impacted countless lives for the better,” said Board President Jackie Goldberg. “This month, we celebrate the Latino community and impactful leaders like Cindy Montañez, who inspire us all.”

“The Los Angeles Unified School District is fortunate to have such a wide variety of languages, cultures and ethnicities,” said Board Vice President Scott M. Schmerelson. “Latinos comprise over 15 million Californians and close to 5 million in Los Angeles County. The district must take the time to remind students, parents and the community that we value their culture’s richness and its positive impact on our district.”

Board Member Ortiz Franklin is a member of the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education representing Board District 7, where she was previously a student, teacher, teacher-educator and advocate. She is committed to ensuring all students graduate fully prepared to thrive in the college, career and life of their choice. Los Angeles Unified Board District 7 includes the diverse communities of South Los Angeles, Watts, Gardena, Carson, Lomita, Harbor City, Wilmington and San Pedro.


“Latino Heritage Month highlights the history, the culture and the accomplishments of our families, friends, neighbors and especially our students and staff who share similar roots,” said Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III. “We also celebrate the diversity, which includes the 25 percent of U.S. Latinos who identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America.”


Dr. Rocío Rivas said, “I am hopeful that in honoring the work and life of a fellow Latina as we celebrate Latino Heritage Month, we will uplift our girls, remind them that nothing is impossible. As an immigrant myself, I understand the service-centered dedication that San Fernando City Councilmember Cindy Montañez has brought to her environmental advocacy and her political career. We can honor that legacy by keeping campus greening and climate resilience a top priority.” 


“This month, and all months, we are proud to recognize Latino heritage, which forms the backbone of our Los Angeles community,” said Board Member Nick Melvoin. “And we recommit to ensuring that our students are instilled with knowledge and experiences of the diverse cultures and histories within the Latino heritage. This includes the amazing stories of local heroes and trailblazers like Cindy Montañez, who we celebrate today.”


“As a Latina, I am proud to co-sponsor this resolution that embraces and honors the diverse and invaluable contributions of our Latino/a/x/e community within LA Unified, our communities, our local leaders and our country,” Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said. “Let us never forget that Los Angeles is home to nearly 5 million Latinos and California schools are over 50% Latinx, making our actions and positions in LA Unified significant beyond our own walls. What an honor to be among living legends like Cindy Montañez and to have the opportunity to develop the leadership of over 300,000 LAUSD Latine students.”