Local alum chairs all-girl academy

Alpine resident Danitza Villanueva was recently named The Academy of Our Lady of Peace Board of Directors chair. Villanueva was born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. “I was very fortunate to cross the border every day to come to school and get my education here in San Diego,” she said. “I am a proud alumnus of the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, Class of 1998.”

After graduating, Villanueva went to college. She has two degrees, one from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Fashion Marketing, and a second from San Diego Christian College in Communications. Sixteen years ago, she founded Giving Back Magazine, which highlights San Diego nonprofits. In 2017 and 2018, Danitza was honored to co-chair the OLP Women’s Symposium and in 2017 she joined the OLP Board of Directors.

“Through this journey through the magazine, I was able to reconnect again with the school and my alma mater. I have been serving as chair of their Women’s Symposium, and after a couple of years I was invited to be part of the Board.

“That was very exciting for me to be able to come back and pay it forward to a school that gave me so much through my formative years,” she continued. “I was then elected to be board chair, so I just started my term. It has been very exciting. Very fulfilling, but I have also been learning a lot through this process.”

Villanueva said OLP board is private, built on the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, so it follows its merit of unifying love, and its religious order.

“We are based on our religion, which is important for these young girls as they are getting their education. We always must abide by the rules of the Saint Joseph of Carondelet, which is actually in Los Angeles. That is where the sisters are,” she said. “Then always making sure that through the unifying love, we make sure we inspire these young girls. OLP is an all-girls school, so we are really about allowing these young girls opportunities to make different choices in their lives. We do it by, as a board coming together, making sure that we create events on campus where these girls have the opportunity to learn from different industries, and different walks of life.”

Villanueva said the school is extremely diverse, and that she is a proud Latina board member. “We have a board that is very inclusive, diverse, and that is exactly what it is like with the girls there at the school.

We have a very diverse body of schoolgirls, and our board definitely reflects that,” she said.

Villanueva said that OLP has a great Head of School in Dr. Lauren Lek who has innovated the school. She said when she went to OLP in 1998, the school was very traditional in its education and way of thinking.

“To be able to work with a board of directors, alongside the head of school, we are always about how we can move the school forward,” she said. “All this forward thinking is really inspiring. We have a really strong, determined, smart head of school, and we are working all together for the next 140 years because it is the longest running school in San Diego,” she said.

Villanueva said things have changed dramatically since she was a student. Students can work in robotics.

“Back in 1998, when we had career days, it was very traditional women roles that we were presented,” she said. “Which was great. They are wonderful roles. But now, the young girls can be a scientist, go to space, can be an attorney, and do different walks of life. That is truly the tremendous strength that Dr. Lauren Lek has brought to the school. That these young girls know that they have different opportunities.”

Lek said OLP was founded in 1882, and it is the only remaining all girls Catholic high school in the San Diego region.

“We provide an education for all girls in grades nine through twelve, and founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, and their spirit and charisma still continue to influence our school very much in empowering our young women today to be leaders in their community and our world. Women who are concerned about the needs of their community, attuned to what is happening around them, and then have the skills to go out into the world and really make a difference.”

Lek said Villanueva came back to serve on the board in 2017 and this is her first year as board chair, joining a board of 16, in leadership and support of OLP students. Lek said being a Catholic school, the Sisters of Saint Joseph approve board members. She said OLP is an independent Catholic school, working closely with the dioceses of San Diego.

Lek said not only is Villanueva very involved with the school, but that she is also extremely involved in the community.

“She is very involved with Ronald McDonald Charities, sat on the San Diego Opera board for many years, the Hope Leadership Institute, the Salvation Army of San Diego,” she said. “Our students are taught very much to be women engaged. Women who go out and to serve. Danitza is that example of an alum that represents so many who use their gifts and talents to give back and make a difference. No matter where I meet alums, wherever I travel around the world, I find that time and time again. An OLP alum is someone who is making a difference. Whether it be in their profession or whether it be in their philanthropy. These are truly remarkable individuals. And to have an alum once again at the helm of our board, who is immolating that commitment of service, that commitment to care for others, care for our dear neighbor, is really quintessential example for our students and our community.”


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