By Ernesto Valenzuela, AmeriCorps member, Jordan High School
Carlos Montes is currently the principal of Jordan High School. Born in Lynwood,California, his family moved to Tijuana when he was young, where he attended 1st and 2nd grade. Eventually, his family settled in Compton, California where his mother worked for Compton Unified School District and his father worked in a factory a stone’s throw from Jordan High School. Sports were a big part of his life and he attended schools in nearby South Gate, California where he played football and baseball.
After graduating from South Gate High School, he attended Cal State Dominguez Hills where he majored in audio engineering. Interestingly enough, his interest in sports is what initially drew him into the educational field. Along with one of his cousins, Mr. Montes coached a travel baseball team who went undefeated. Once the kids from this team made it to South Gate High School and they spoke about the impact he had on them, he was offered a spot coaching baseball and leading an after-school reading program. Mr. Montes recently won an award as the High School Principal of the Year for the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.
What is your favorite thing about Jordan High School?
A: Easily the students, the community we serve here at Jordan. They have lots of “ganas", and resiliency. A lot of people underestimate these kids and how much they’ve been through. I find their tenacity fulfilling at the end of the day.
What motivates you every morning?
A: Knowing that (working at this school) is important work to do motivates me on a daily basis. Not everyone can do this work, takes a special type of person. I love being able to see what I can do to support everyone here, be it City Year, teachers, staff. My job is to support everyone else, which motivates me.
What impact have you noticed City Year has had at Jordan High School?
A: City Year has helped so much in transforming the culture of this school. After the reconstitution of the school (in 2011), one of our main goals was to change the culture and stigmas surrounding Jordan High. City Year has helped us build that up when it had honestly reached its lowest point. Through constant collaboration, empathy, expectations, and supporting our kids, City Year has helped us accomplish that. They help us every day in keeping kids on track, and making sure the kids know “No, you’re not going to go down this road”.
What message would you like to leave for the team?
A: The City Year team genuinely cares about students and the school, so my biggest advice would be to keep that genuine mindset and keep doing what you’re doing. Keep looking to serve and make a difference with the understanding that results won’t always come right away but they will eventually come. It will make sure they’re successful in whatever they do, be it a career in another field, graduate school, or coming back to City Year.
Helena Lisle is a first-year partner teacher at Carver Middle School in South L.A.