ASU alum selected for Truman Democracy Fellows program
Armando Montero will use what he learns to run for school board reelection or seek higher office
As president of the Tempe Union High School District (TUHSD) Governing Board, Armando Montero counts the adoption of a comprehensive mental health policy among his greatest achievements.
Montero graduated Arizona State University in May with degrees in political science, economics and mathematics (statistics), with honors from Barrett, The Honors College. He was a Truman Scholar last year.
In 2020, at the age of 19, he was elected to the TUHSD Governing Board on a student-centric platform that included mental health advocacy. He now works as a senior planning analyst in the ASU Office of the Senior Vice President while serving as president of the school board.
“Mental health was one of the defining issues that led me to run for the board,” said Montero, who chaired an advisory committee of students, teachers, families, administrators and community partners that wrote the district’s mental health policy.
The policy, adopted by the board in 2021, focuses on resources and processes for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention (interventions for bereaved survivors, community members and health care providers), making it “likely the most comprehensive mental health policy in the state,” Montero said.
“We have reduced the student-to-counselor ratio to close to 1-to-400, doubled the number of CARE 7 specialists at each school, established critical partnerships with organizations such as Care Solace, established cross-departmental, multi-tiered support system teams, created programs to reduce the stigma, and so much more. While we still have a lot of work to do, this has been a tremendous starting point and put Tempe Union on the map as a statewide leader in mental health,” Montero said.
With this experience in his hip pocket, Montero is participating in the Truman Democracy Fellows program for Truman Scholars who are interested in pursuing electoral politics.
He was recently selected for the program, which helps participants of all ages and political affiliations develop knowledge of key issues and challenges surrounding electoral politics, build community with other fellows who are actively planning to run for office, and become better prepared to succeed in the political arena. He will use what he learns in the program to inform his decision of whether to run for school board reelection or seek a higher office.
The program includes discussions on topics related to running for office, such as cultivating donors and raising funds, working with party leaders, navigating election law, running a campaign, building coalitions and balancing personal life with public office.
“I’m honored and incredibly excited to be selected to participate in the Truman Democracy Fellows program this year. After being selected as a Truman Scholar last year, the people that I have had the opportunity to meet, connect with and learn from have been invaluable, and I know this program will provide unique opportunities to connect with others from across the country who have been elected to public office and are considering running (for office),” Montero said.
“What I appreciate is the emphasis on the fact that the group is politically diverse, with some from different political parties and with different offices in mind. But, what we have in common is the desire to make positive change in our communities and find common ground on many issues. The focus is on the fact that we are all dedicated to public service,” he added.
Montero said he hasn’t decided what office he may run for beyond the one he already holds, but wants to make a positive impact with whatever he pursues.
“That was why I ran for school board in 2020. I have been able to see the vital role that local government plays in the day-to-day lives of people in my community. Beyond all of the critical work that we have done around mental health, school safety, equity, student outcomes-focused governance and so much more, I ran for a simple reason: to give voice to those who are traditionally not represented,” he said.
Montero recounted that when he ran for the TUHSD board in 2020, many people told him it would be impossible to win given his youth and lack of political experience.
His first time in the Tempe Union boardroom was as a student at Desert Vista High School in December 2018. After experiencing mental health struggles and the loss of a friend his sophomore year, Montero was there to advocate for mental health awareness and resources.
While working with the district board and administration, he noticed a lack of student representation in the decision-making process.
“As more board members, students, teachers and community members began to approach me about the idea of running, I realized the importance of having a governing board that truly reflects the community that it serves,” he said.
“For a body that oversees close to 13,000 students, I felt that having someone who has gone through the system and truly understands what it means to be a student in today’s world was critical. While I initially did not expect to win, I did it to show young people that it is possible to run and elevate our voices and experiences.”
Montero said that over the past several years, he has worked to show why it is critical to have young people in office and the impact a new and fresh perspective can bring to critical issues.
As a Truman Democracy Fellow, Montero said he will consider his political trajectory, what elected office he might seek in the future, and gain a deeper understanding of key issues around running for higher office. And, he will be better prepared if he decides to run for reelection to the high school district board.
“I have been, and will continue, to evaluate what the next steps might be to help propel some of the work that we have done and how we can bring a fresh perspective to the multitude of issues we are seeing locally, statewide and nationally. This program will help me think about what those next steps might be and how to make them a reality in the future,” he said.
In the meantime, he will continue to bring a fresh point of view to the TUHSD board.
“I wholeheartedly believe that all voices are needed at the decision-making table. My generation has been faced with a unique set of challenges, especially these past several years, that are affected by the policy decisions being made at all levels of government. Being at the table allows us to bring a fresh and unique perspective to many of the issues we are facing today,” Montero said.
“When people are able to connect with and see themselves in those who are in office, they feel more engaged and represented. I see this personally when I visit schools in my capacity as board president. One of the best parts of the job is walking into classrooms and seeing students light up when they see someone who looks like them and understands them in this position. My hope is that it encourages more young people and students to get involved and make their voices heard in whatever capacity that best suits them, because the most informed decision-making happens when all voices are heard and taken into consideration.”