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TUSD welcomes alumni to help further equity initiatives
equity coordinator 2
Angélica Cárdenas Ayala hopes to make TUSD a welcoming place for all students. - photo by Pawan Naidu

In an effort to make sure that all students have equal access to resources and educational support, the Turlock Unified School District has hired a new equity coordinator.

The TUSD Board of Trustees approved Angélica Cárdenas Ayala for the position of Coordinator of Equity Initiatives, effective Wednesday.

Ayala’s background includes an MA in Education, Counseling and a BA in Politics and Spanish. She recently held the position of Lead Counselor at ACE Charter High School in San Jose and previously worked for Aspire Public Schools in her work to guide students to pursue higher education.

“I couldn’t be more excited to kick-off our equity work in TUSD with someone who can immediately empathize with our underserved, under-represented students and families because of her own personal experiences as a former student in our district and community,” said Superintendent Dana Trevethan. “Angelica’s experiences and successes align to TUSD’s goals of inclusivity and are a testament to the recognition and celebration of diversity, value of strong role models, and opportunities afforded to all.”

Ayala is looking forward to meeting students, parents and more community members; and welcomes conversations needed to build trust.

“I am thrilled to be of service to TUSD students, parents, staff, teachers and community members and welcome any critical feedback from all stakeholders,” said Ayala. “Through these courageous conversations, we can find opportunities to catalyze the necessary change to grow together. I value your trust and I am passionate about upholding equitable practices to create welcoming spaces and honor the rich diversity found across our district. I believe that as we engage in this work at every level, we further demonstrate how we are grounded in unity, empathy, support and inclusivity. As a community, this is who we are, and how we care for each other.”

She says that equity is the practice of differentiating and individualizing the support, instruction and resources offered to students with the goal of eliminating potential barriers to growth and achievement. It also looks like honoring diversity and creating inclusive spaces where students, families and staff are valued and celebrated for their unique identities.

One of her initial priorities is to really listen to the community and understand what the needs are within the district. Centering the voices of those who have experienced marginalization, she would like to work in collaboration with our school teams, partners, families and leaders to find and implement research-based actions to address these barriers.

“In the recent years, TUSD has made great strides in building and sustaining equitable practices such as creating an Equity Task Force, adopting culturally relevant pedagogies and continuously revisiting policies and practices where changes can be made to fit the current needs of students and families,” said Ayala. “I intend to support and expand on this collective work in alignment with our district plan to close gaps and foster high achievement.”

As a graduate of Turlock High School, Ayala is returning home and supporting her local community. According to Ayala, she grew up in a community with very limited resources where she experienced gang violence, witnessed the school-to-prison pipeline in action and saw the endless barriers that pushed students like myself to disengage from learning. She found support within TUSD and is thankful for teachers that she credits for changing her course.

“Angelica was a speech and debate student of mine all four years in high school,” said Turlock High School teacher Michele VanNieuwenhuyzen. “She knows first-hand the struggles that students must overcome to make their way in education. Her knowledge, poise and willingness to do the work make her a perfect fit for this position. It isn’t going to be easy…but nothing worthwhile ever truly is.”