Monica Arango has always been passionate about education. She majored in elementary education and psychology at Aurora University. But after student teaching she decided that being a teacher wasn’t the right career choice for her.
After college she spent two years serving in AmeriCorps, often working with young people, and after that she worked in college admissions and financial aid. When she moved to North Riverside from the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago in 2021, Arango quickly joined the Komarek School PTA.
In December, she filed to run for a seat the Komarek District 94 school board and on Jan. 10 Arango was appointed to that board to fill the vacancy created by the death of Brian Jicha in November.
“I can have a voice in a small community,” Arango said of her desire to be on the school board. “Being that I come from a huge community where you’re kind of a small fish in a large pond, this gives you an opportunity to be like a big fish in a small pond and have the opportunity to have a voice in my community.”
Current Komarek School board member Melissa Obrock, who knew Arango from their days as graduate students in Loyola University’s master’s program in higher education, suggested that Arango run for the school board.
“It looks like I’m walking into a board that’s very well run,” Arango said. “I’m really excited to work with the school board.”
Arango is bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English, which is an advantage since nearly 53 percent of Komarek students are Hispanic. Arango is the only Hispanic member of the District 94 school board.
“Because I am bilingual and because I have the ability to communicate with people that others may not be able to, it absolutely is an advantage and an opportunity to bring in those voices of people who may not necessarily always be heard,” Arango said.
Arango, 45, works as a rating service veterans representative for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I make decisions based on disability claims for veterans,” Arango said.
She has two sons who are Komarek students, a sixth grader and a second grader.
When she was in college, Arango founded a chapter of the Gamma Phi Omega sorority, a sorority that was founded for Latinas. She believes that and other leadership experiences will help her on the school board.
“I am the type of person who, if you need something, I’ll go out of my way to help you find it,” Arango said.
Arango was the only person who applied to fill the vacancy created when Jicha died. She and Chris Waas, the longtime president of the Komarek District 94 school board, were the only candidates to file for the April election when three seats are up on the school board.
After the election, unless someone files to run as a write-in, the school board will have to appoint someone to fill the final remaining seat on the board. Susan Bogdan, who has served on the Komarek District 94 Board of Education since 2014, did not file to run for another term.