Members of the Riverbank Unified School District Board gathered in a special meeting on March 18 to swear in Connie Gilbert as a newly appointed board trustee. Gilbert applied for the open trustee seat that was previously held by Steve Walker, who resigned in December 2013.
Board President Elizabeth Meza, Clerk Susan Taylor, and trustee Suzanne Dean selected Gilbert as a provisional appointed trustee in February.
“I think Connie will be a great asset to our board,” stated Meza. “The board has a very good flow and a great professional demeanor.”
Following is a ‘Q&A’ with the new board member.
Q – Why did you apply for the open trustee seat?
A – I was approached by several teachers, administrative staff and coaches alike for the past two years about my running for the board. I took their recommendations and considered to do so and was going to run this past election year, however my mother-in-law was terminally ill and I decided to devote my effort in caring for her. A short time later, my father-in-law suddenly passed away and my father had fallen ill and was hospitalized. Unfortunately, due to the unforeseen circumstances I wasn’t able to run.
My experience as a school site council president, at Cardozo Middle (School) … along with being a parent representative for District Advisory Committee for Cardozo Middle allowed me to help set the foundation for the upcoming school year. Prior to coming to the Riverbank school district, I had served on the school site council for the Salida Union School District at Dena Boer Elementary. My volunteering in the classroom and for school activities, fund-raising, taking pictures for the sports, establishing and setting up a memorial fund, coupled with my school construction background in working in various school districts, helped with giving me a different perspective of how monies for the upcoming school year would be spent. My aforementioned experiences, along with my devotion for the betterment of all children are why I decided to run for a seat on the school board. I would like to ensure that all children are provided the ability of a strong stable education to keep competitive with their counterparts. The knowledge gain, would in turn allow the children the opportunity to further their education and/or to be productive citizens in their community.
Q – Will you share a little bit about your family and background?
A – My prior experience as a Project Engineer and Administrative Assistant for construction school projects has allowed me the insight of being able to provide the children with a safe, healthy and educational environment.
My parents, Pedro and Connie Sandoval settled in Modesto in the 1950s. My father, who migrated from Mexico, by literally swimming across the Rio Grande, had a sixth grade education, and came to the states to seek a better life than what he endured in Mexico. My mother, who had a high school education, came from Los Angeles; she too along with her family was seeking to get away from the busy city life. Both my parents were working class citizens that worked in the fields then later in the area Modesto canneries, finally retiring from Contadina Foods in Riverbank. Having been born the youngest child of eight, my parents always talked about working hard and being dedicated to what you do. My parents instilled that family was the first priority and that working hard to help out the family was second. I was born and raised in Modesto and attended school in the area. I was raised in an area that most would term the other side of the tracks and/or the bad side of Modesto, which is West Modesto. I attended Washington Elementary (now Modesto High School), Mark Twain Junior High School and Modesto High School. I currently live in Northeast Modesto, within the Riverbank School District boundaries. After high school, I attended Modesto Junior College, but had to quit to help care for my oldest sister, who had lupus, and help with caring for her family.
After a few years, I decided to resume my education and returned to Modesto Junior College. As I reflected back on my parents’ struggles in life, I knew that I did not want to follow their path, their life served as a valuable lesson for me to take their advice and work hard. I worked full time and paid for my education all on my own. Prior to graduating from Modesto Junior College, I met my best friend and unbeknownst to the two of us, later my husband, Kory Gilbert. Together, we went on to further our education at CSU Stanislaus and after five years of dating, we married and had our first of three children, all the while working full time and attending school. Since we married and had a child, many acquaintances and some family doubted that Kory and I would finish school. Both, Kory and I were proud to have graduated with our Bachelor’s Degrees, Kory with a Business Administration and I with an Organizational Communications. Of my siblings, I was the first member of my family to obtain a college education; this is what I am most proud of. I decided to continue my education and worked on obtaining a Master’s Degree, however the birth of my second child, allowed me to complete only one semester. The following year, it was mutually decided that I would work full time and maintain the household, all the while my husband, Kory would return and complete his Masters of Business Administration degree. Kory and I attributed our parents’ life struggles as a determination for our dedication to our education and we share our determination and story with our three children. Cassandra Gilbert, our eldest child, is 19 years old, 2012 Valedictorian of Riverbank High School, she is currently attending University of California, Berkeley; Kory Gilbert Jr., 16 years old, Junior at Riverbank High School, he is involved in various school activities and sports and Kameron Gilbert, 13 years old, eighth grader at Cardozo Middle School, that excels in all areas of school.
I share my experiences in the hope that it will inspire and benefit those in the community, who share a similar background, as I.
I would like to serve as a role model for that little girl or little boy, whom deems it impossible to reach their goal. With hard work and determination, anything can be accomplished.