Sofia Caruso and Lilia Montiel say they have a better understanding of Rancho Bernardo’s issues since joining the Rancho Bernardo Community Council in January as student representatives.
Both are 16-year-old juniors at Rancho Bernardo High School with one-year terms on the board.
Caruso, a longtime Rancho Bernardan, said she appreciates how community residents come together on the council to hold events and talk about issues facing the community.
“It’s really enlightening and not like I expected,” Caruso said. “I love going to meetings and hearing from people like Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert…and police and fire officials.”
Montiel said she had wanted to be a student representative since eighth grade when she attended an RB community council meeting to accept an award and saw teenagers among the members.
Last fall, her mother saw the application notice in the Rancho Bernardo News Journal asking high school students to apply.
“I was really excited and found it so interesting to be part of my community, relaying information from high school to the community board and (vice versa)…I can be part of something bigger.”
RB Community Council President Robin Kaufman said the group has had student representatives since 2015. She got the idea from the Rancho Peñasquitos City Council, which had student members.
“I thought it was a good idea to have students representing this age group in the community, sharing their ideas, concerns and issues,” Kaufman said.
Only high school juniors who live in Rancho Bernardo can apply.
As for current student members, Kaufman said, “We appreciate them. They are very mature, give good reports and have helped recruit teen volunteers for our last two events (Holiday and Earth Day). They interact well with adults and represent us very well.
Caruso is the daughter of Joel Miller-Caruso and Keith Caruso. Montiel is the daughter of Andrea and Miguel Montiel.
“When I saw the ad in the career center at school for the first time, I thought it was a good opportunity to broaden my experiences because my previous ones were all school-related. “Caruso said.
These activities include the Fight Against Hunger Club, That’s on Period, which collects menstrual products to make available free on campus; Blue Crew, which helps students prepare for high school; and Next Generation Politics, which hosts conversations on various political topics.
She is active with Friday Night Live/Safe Promise Club, which supports community events on campus, such as Red Ribbon Week to educate students about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and vaping products, Caruso said. . She also competes in the shot put and discus events at athletics competitions.
Montiel said her family moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Rancho Bernardo when she was in second grade.
For the past 10 years, she has studied Applied Martial Arts. She is a fourth-level junior black belt and is studying for her black belt, a process that requires passing six tests. She also works as an instructor for children ages 3-13 at Swift Kick Martial Arts.
“When I was little it was how to defend, but now it’s the fight and what to do in a neck and neck fight,” Montiel said. “I love kickboxing because with punches and kicks I have a little advantage (due to my size) than with grappling.”
Since sixth grade, Montiel said she has been part of Best Buddies, a club that pairs students with developmental or intellectual disabilities with students without those challenges. She also competes in the pole vault on the school’s varsity track team. Growing up around horses, she has worked for several summers with trainers at horse training centers and ranches as her career aspiration is to be an equine veterinarian.
Montiel said the community council award she received in eighth grade was to recognize her efforts to provide beds for children who have no beds and must sleep on the floor. She founded ZZZs 4 Kidz four years ago and raised more than $15,000, enough to provide beds for 37 children in San Diego.
The two teens volunteered at the council’s recent Earth Day Fair in Rancho Bernardo helping with the setup and helping at the craft table where the kids were able to make bird feeders out of apples. pine nuts, peanut butter and birdseed.
Caruso said that while she was not yet a council member, she also went to her holiday event last December.
“I met the mayor (Todd Gloria); it was pretty cool,” she said.
When asked what she would like teens to know about the council, Caruso replied, “They are a very knowledgeable group of people who are passionate about their community.”
“It’s really a very interesting experience that all people have to go through once to see the community leaders and learn about the topics,” she said. “I recommend that they attend meetings…and be active participants in the community.”
“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be part of the community that has been so great to me,” Montiel said. “Rancho Bernardo is a pleasure to live, to grow up here… so hopefully I can give back some of what was given to me.”