Luchadora Profile: Silvia Ortega Fighting for Students in the Jurupa Unified School District

Silvia Ortega is the first Latina elected to the Jurupa Unified School District governing Board of Trustees for Area 2. There is an incredible amount of irony related to that very fact, especially when you consider all the social obstacles that were in place to prevent this reality from happening.

Several life experiences from those teenage years truly clouded her path, including an expulsion from school as a teen and navigating the experience of being the first in her family to attend college. However, Silvia’s cognitive and maternal skills kept the light from burning out completely. She graduated from JUSD, and went on to graduate from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona earning a bachelor of science degree in business administration, with a minor in hospitality management. The university life charged-up her critical-thinking skills, and she returned to her roots in Rubidoux/Jurupa Valley with an enhanced vision and the tools to make her mark.

Naturally, her community was in dire need of her counsel. One of the events that motivated Silvia to run for the JUSD board of trustee office was an episode that occurred while she was working for El Sol NEC as a family support worker for pregnant mothers and their families. In a relatively short period, Silvia became an integral part of the accreditation process for the Home Visitation Expectant Mother’s program. As she refined those processes that assist expectant mothers, a challenge arose with a third term pregnant woman with an older child.

The older child was scholastically falling behind and had been designated to receive an IEP (Individual Education Plan) to assist her in accumulating the credits needed to pass kindergarten. This student also had some developmental delays that were not being adequately addressed by the school. When the JUSD continually failed to deliver the IEP, Silvia’s patient journeyed to the school district offices to repeatedly inquire what was going on with her daughter’s IEP. The JUSD staff was not very helpful and seemingly ignored all her requests for IEP status. The mother spoke Spanish, so there were some communication gaps with the district. Time kept ticking away, and she was constantly told they couldn’t verify whether the filed IEP had all signed approvals in place. Frustrated with the usual public school run-around games, Silvia had witnessed throughout all her school years, she assured her pregnant patient that she was going to solve this social dilemma once and for all. And she did by attending IEP meetings with the family and by helping to create realistic goals for the young student.

Silvia reached out to her mentor, John J. Chavez. John is a life member of the VFW, and the Jurupa District Lions Club which supports the local high school ROTC programs. He was elected to the Jurupa Unified School Board in 1974, and was a board member for 33 years, winning eight successive elections. John Chavez’s local public service opened the door to social change within the local school district, becoming the voice protecting and promoting the interests of the Latino community’s children in the JUSD school board.

John told Silvia the only way to resolve these constant issues that plague the most vulnerable children in general was to correct them from a position of authority. His advice suggested that Silvia run for the Area 2 Jurupa Unified School District trustee board seat. Silvia’s tireless efforts to educate her community advocating the importance of parent’s involvement fully amplified her determination. With John Chavez’s three decades of public service experience, Silvia had an invaluable ally to advise her campaign. And as a graduate of JUSD, Silvia knew which particular areas needed her commitment to serve and see that all graduates find their way to that university experience she had achieved with pure determination.

Silvia now is a board trustee for Area 2 in the Jurupa Unified School District. Here she applies all the lessons of education, leadership, and faith. Silvia’s paraprofessional work experience in the nonprofit sector earning certificates for community health work from Loma Linda University and the Promotores Academy at El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center have been character building tools and accomplishments. But now she is making a real difference in the lives of all those vulnerable families climbing over social obstacles in search of prosperity.

“I really want to show students and families in the district that they can move into positions where they are able to make policies that have an impact on children’s lives. I did not have an easy upbringing, and I suffered a lot of traumas, including efforts to keep me out of school. But with the help of mentors and my own hard work, I am now in a position of influence, and I can give back to students who were like me,” Silvia said.

For her work in the Jurupa Unified School District as a board member, we honor Silvia as a luchadora.

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Adriana Maestas

Adriana Maestas

Adriana Maestas is a Southern California-based freelance writer and education professional. Her writing has been published in NBC Latino,,, Alternet, and The Electronic Intifada.

She has worked in the non-profit sector, in the K-12 system, and in higher education in various capacities. When she's not writing stories or working on media projects, Adriana trains instructors to teach online at the University of California, Irvine.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Irvine and a master’s degree in public policy from Claremont Graduate University.

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