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Uncle of shooting victim Jackie Cazares reflects on first school board meeting as trustee

Jesse Rizo outside of Townhouse restaurant on May 18, 2022.
Kayla Padilla
Jesse Rizo outside of Townhouse restaurant on May 18, 2022.

Newly elected Uvalde CISD school board member Jesse Rizo never imagined he would run for local office. After he lost his 9-year-old niece Jackie Cazares in the 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting, Rizo became a voice for the 21 victims. He was sworn in as a UCISD trustee earlier this month.

“I’ve always cared about the community and kids, but then I’ve seen two years of what I call injustice. Lack of compassion and the pain of the people — not just from the families but the divided community,” Rizo explained.

He just had his first meeting as a school board trustee, during which he suggested that the board make some changes to its operations.

“I felt right away that they didn't want to really change the course. They think that they've done things a certain way. They think that it’s right. I find this unacceptable. And I basically called them out on it,” Rizo said.

Last year, parent Adam Martinez was given a two-year ban from UCISD property after he voiced concerns over a new police hire. The ban was lifted over a month later after the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) threatened to proceed with litigation on Martinez’s behalf.

Rizo hopes to make school board meetings more accessible and inviting to all community members in hopes of preventing incidents like Martinez's.

“There’s so many little things — like changing the policy on how meetings are ran. Perhaps bringing forums, town halls, or Q&As and maybe taking it out to the park or an event or something,” he said.

In the last two years, families of the victims have been outspoken about the division in the community that existed before the 2022 shooting. The use of the phrase “Uvalde Strong” has since become discouraged by community members who don’t feel supported in their efforts to seek justice for the 21 victims.

Rizo is hopeful that he’ll be able to bridge the divide and help the community in their healing process — in honor of his niece Jackie, and the 20 other victims of the shooting.

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