Viviana Montoya-Hernandez Torres Site Director and Aim High Graduate, Class of 1996

Viviana’s life changed at Aim High one summer. She was reading Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street in her seventh grade humanities class. Like the main character Esperanza, Viviana spoke two languages, had immigrant parents, and was negotiating two cultures. For the first time, Viviana saw herself depicted in literature. “It validated my experience as a young person of color,” Viviana says. “This was the beginning of my transformation.”

At Aim High, Viviana was exposed to new and exciting opportunities by teachers who came from her community. They nurtured Viviana’s potential and encouraged her to take risks; Viviana performed onstage in front of her peers, visited college campuses, ventured outside of her neighborhood and made new friends. “Aim High was a safe place with positive role models who were committed to personal growth,” Viviana says. “Aim High helped me transform from a nice kid with good grades to a daring young woman with a thirst for new experiences and a hunger for true education.”

As a result, Viviana was accepted into St. Ignatius Prep, an elite high school that had always seemed off limits to students like her. At first she struggled to make friends, and her teachers discouraged her from taking advanced classes. But with the resilience she gained at Aim High, Viviana eventually found her footing. “I had acquired enough positive experiences with risk-taking to know that success would come.”  Viviana took five AP classes, landed a solo in choir, and applied and was accepted into Santa Clara University, becoming the first member of her family to graduate from college in the United States.

Viviana is now a dedicated educator. She serves as a New Teacher Mentor for the Fremont Union High School District in Silicon Valley and holds two Master’s’ degrees in education. Since 2006, she has been an Aim High Site Director in East Palo Alto. In 2015, she was named Aim High’s Distinguished Alumna of the Year for her inspiring story and commitment to transforming lives through education.