The Ysleta Independent School District is moving forward with its plans to open an all-girl Young Women’s Leadership Academy. The YWLA will be the only single-gender public school in both El Paso and West Texas when it launches in the fall of 2016. Anyone within the city can apply for enrollment.
“These are young girls coming into our schools that we will love, nurture and just grow up into these really strong leaders, not only in the community, but on a global perspective,” said YWLA Principal Malinda Villalobos.
YWLA will open its doors for the first time in 2016-17 school year, when it will accept 125 sixth-graders and 125 seventh-graders in its classes. There will be around 19 staff members.
YWLA will be temporarily located at Ranchland Hills Middle School for a couple years before moving to its permanent home at Hillcrest Middle School.
School officials hope to enroll around 800 students in the next few years.
“We do anticipate there will be more interest than availability,” said YISD superintendent Xavier De La Torre.
The school will focus on leadership, college readiness, and health and wellness. The curriculum will include science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).
Hillcrest Middle School science teacher Lauren Samaniego says she was interested the moment she heard about the school’s approach.
“I’m very passionate about science. Being female, being in that type of career, I want to push other young girls into those professions.
Interested students and their families will have to fill out an application. The school will look at previous grades and attendance records, among other criteria. The school will also conduct parent and student interviews. Applications are due Feb. 7.
“What we're looking for is a girl who has all the potential and spirit to be in a school like this,” said Villalobos.
De La Torre says he hopes the school can help break the mold of the Borderland.
“Traditionally, they're expected to take care of younger siblings or close to family,” said De La Torre. “That's one of the things true of our culture here. Family is very important and we think it can continue to be important, but we want them to at least consider other options when they work so hard.”
Teachers say there is another benefit.
“It’s safe to say there will be less of a distraction between boys and girls,” said Samaniego.
YWLA was made possible through the support of the Dallas-based Young Women’s Preparatory Network, which will provide YISD with $1 million in enhancement funding to help finance YWLA.
Interested families should call the YWLA office at 915-434-1300 to reserve their spot at one of six mandatory meetings taking place at the YISD Central Office Theater. The meetings are on the following dates and times: 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 17, Dec. 14, Dec. 17, and Jan. 7; 9 a.m. on Jan. 7; and 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 27.