• IDRA Newsletter • November-December 2018 •

Dear Dr. Cuca Montecel,

Words cannot express how much your passion, research and work have changed the lives of students across Texas and beyond. The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce applauds your efforts in education and your long-lasting championship of helping students have brighter futures and more resources for success.

Congratulations on your retirement! It’s well-deserved!

– Brianna Dimas, Chief Operations Officer, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Congratulations! You have been an outstanding model of what educator should be. Thank you for the wonderful years, wisdom, research and knowledge that you have given to hundreds of communities.

– Minerva Minnie Abrego-Sanchez, Andrade Van de Putte & Associates

If it wasn’t for the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, maybe I would have just become another statistic and not the person you see here today. I strongly believe the Coca-­Cola Valued Youth Program is invaluable to the kids and to the community. You made a change in my life, and I strongly believe it will keep making differences in others.

– Pablo López, former Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutor

I want to thank you wholeheartedly for all you did in providing exemplary programs and services for all our students. During my tenure as an administrator at South San Antonio ISD, I considered it a tremendous pleasure and a privilege to have worked side by side with you and your superb and excellent staff.

Because of your leadership in the implementation of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, many thousands of students are now making San Antonio and Bexar County a better place to work and live. In a very positive way, you have touched many young lives and helped them prepare for their future and become productive members of society. I have always admired your cordial smile, hard work, professionalism, support and dedication.

There is no doubt that you will leave deep footprints at IDRA and with the many school districts. Please accept my most heartfelt congratulations and warmest best wishes.

– J. Gilberto Quezada, retired school district administrator

Vision, inspiration and leadership describe my comrade Cuca. As the nucleus of IDRA, she has led the organization on the path of providing quality education for all students across the country. When José passed the torch twenty six years ago, he too was convinced she would lead IDRA on a journey to national and international prominence. Her work and IDRA continue to light the way. Love, Laura

– Laura Cáardenas

Thank you for all you have done for the children of Texas! You are a scholar, advocate and beauty (inside and out)! Good luck in all your future endeavors.

– Sylvia Ramirez Reyna, retired chief of school leadership with Dallas ISD

Cuca, what a joy and adventure it has been to walk el camino with you over the decades. Though one part of the journey is ending, we know more blessings and joy await.

– Albert and Josie Cortez, former IDRA senior staff

Cuca is a brilliant thought leader, but more than that, she uses her heart combined with her genius to make extraordinary things transpire. Few executives can combine bottom-line decisions with cultural understanding that benefits everyone. I’m proud to say Cuca is one of them and I too have benefitted from her genius and good will.

– Becky Barrera, IDRA 1975-80

We are so indebted to you and your Servant Leadership. Mil gracias y Felicidades Amiga!

– Lorena Garza Gonzalez, vice president at Urban Strategies

Thanks for the opportunity to share some thoughts about Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, a courageous and visionary national leader whose actions have made such a profound impact on the educational arena and the educational opportunities of the many children who have been traditionally marginalized. Cuquita, I have always admired your path to success; you are “un módelo para seguir para muchas jóvenes.” While growing up you defied all expectations when this caring young girl from ‘el barrio del Chacón’ enrolled in one of the top high schools in Laredo, Texas, and continued her education at top universities graduating with a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

We at IDRA were blessed when you accepted to become IDRA’s President & CEO, and under your leadership, IDRA has made breakthroughs that took Dr. José A. Angel Cárdenas’ dream of a quality education for all to a much higher level. Nunca quitaste el dedo del renglón. People love you for many reasons, but the reason that outshines all others is your ability to inspire others to become true advocates for social justice in this world.

Cuquita, a duras penas, muchos respetamos tu decisión de jubilarte, pero todos sabemos que dejarás un vacío de liderazgo que tomará mucho esfuerzo para llenar. Me siento tan agradecido por haberte tenido como “mi boss, líder, mi colega y amiga del alma.” Aunque no lo creas, un Viejo como yo, logró aprender mucho de tu sabiduría, liderazgo, y tu generosidad. Dios te bendiga y te cuide y reine de bendiciones a toda tu familia. Te extrañaremos.

– Dr. Abelardo Villarreal, retired IDRA director of operations

Congratulations Dr. Robledo Montecel, on an extraordinary legacy of excellence in championing for children!

For me personally, you have been a source of inspiration and support, a mentor and guide. You exemplified for me how we can successfully meld together the things that we are most passionate about – service, leadership, career and family – and live our best lives.

A first-generation college graduate, my first full-time job was at IDRA. The four years I spent there were a launching pad for my professional career. The knowledge, experience and mentoring I received there have been integral to my professional and personal success.

I am forever grateful for your mentorship and your willingness to invest in me. I wish you the very best as you walk into this next season of your life.

With deep respect and admiration,

– Oanh Maroney-Omitade

Cuca, throughout the years your leadership in the field of education has ensured that our voices are heard and listened to. Your dedication to IDRA’s goals, to its staff, parent groups and funders has been a model for others to follow. But your love for children and your dedication to ensuring that they are given every opportunity to fully participate in the best educational opportunities this nation can offer leave a legacy much admired and appreciated by all of us. Personally, it is always a joy to see you, a shining beacon of perseverance, determination and love for humanity. It is an honor to know you and to call you friend. May your “second act” be as fulfilling as the first. Love Rosie,

– Rosie Castro

Cuca is a unique combination of smarts, class and guts. She is absolutely dedicated to low-income and minority students and is indefatigable in her advocacy for them. We are so lucky to have had her working for us for almost 50 years. Students all over the country – indeed the world – owe so much to Cuca for her devotion to a cause and energy and love to pursue it.

– Al Kauffman (a 40-year fan of Cuca)

Cuca, your impact on education is transformational – and will reverberate for generations of children. For me, your presence in my life – as a leader, mentor, colleague, and beloved friend – has been profound.

– Laurie Posner, former IDRA senior staff

I was lucky enough to meet Cuca in the early 1990s as part of the Community Education Leadership Program. Wow! From the moment you meet Cuca, you are taken in by her grace, confidence, wisdom and passion. It emanates from her in every interaction. Her warmth and care embrace you in a way that makes you believe that you can do anything, and she leads with a vision for children and our community that makes clear the path. I learned what we now call an “equity lens” (long before it had such a name) from witnessing the way that Cuca approached challenges, and what and how she prioritized in her problem-solving. She was and continues to be a model of fairness, wisdom and leadership for me and all others who have the privilege of walking the path of education and community development with her. I am forever grateful for her mentorship, friendship and partnership over these many years.

– Shari Becker Albright, president, Raise Your Hand Texas Education Foundation 

[©2018, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November-December 2018 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]