Hispanic Heritage: Lincoln High School principal on a mission
Hispanic Heritage Month continues into October as a celebration of Latino culture. In San Diego County, there are mentors working every day to improve life for the younger Hispanic generation and preserve the history they come from.
One of those mentors is Melissa Agudelo, the new co-principal at Lincoln High School. She is the daughter of Colombian immigrants and has been in education for 25 years. She started as an educator with Teach For America, an organization of teachers that commits to spending two years in underserved, minority communities. The goal is to diversify and bring equity to education.
Although Agudelo’s commitment with TFA was early in her career, she has continued to support students who are marginalized.
“It is about building relationships and getting to know our students individually and inviting them to come sit with me to discuss how we will bring Latinismo into Lincoln ... who are we as a group?” she said.
This fall there are 1,500 students on the sprawling Lincoln High School campus. Agudelo said 70 % of them are Latino. She has a daily goal to “be the one who notices” students in need whether it requires a firm disciplinary action or a shoulder of support.
Many of her students have lost family members to COVID-19 in the past year. She shared the story of one girl who put her late grandmother’s picture on her cell phone case as an inspiration to continue to do well in school.
“The loss in this community has been significant and it is a reminder that students are carrying that around with them," she said. "In the case of this girl, she carries it literally in her pocket.”
Along with her many responsibilities, Agudelo also supports teachers and curriculum in math and social studies. Ethnic studies are a particular passion of hers because of the opportunity to teach the younger generation history and mentor them in leadership for the future.
Hispanic Heritage month is a priority for her.
"The rhetoric around the border and who should be here and who shouldn’t be here," she said. "This is the time to say ‘No,’ we will celebrate our food, our people, our culture and our music. It’s a celebration of who we are.”