Director of College Counseling
The Washington Latin Public Charter School (DC)
How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!
Officially, I am on my 16th year, but I include a couple years of my undergraduate experience volunteering in the admissions office at my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, because I was doing work that early in my career, I hired professionals to do!
How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
I'd known since my first day of kindergarten that I wanted to be a teacher. As I got to high school, I'd figured out that I wanted to teach high school students music and/or Spanish since I excelled at both. I got to Mount Holyoke and joined Concert Choir, was selected for a chamber ensemble within the Concert Choir, was asked to join an a cappella group, played in an instrumental ensemble (B-flat clarinet), and signed up for the English handbell choir. I figured out that I just wanted to continue to have music in my life, not necessarily teach it. And because I'm quite an introvert, I've always disliked speaking in front of groups. Having to speak in a language not my own in my 200-level Spanish class my first week at MHC (sadly) cured me of wanting to teach Spanish. But I fell head-over-heels, love-of-my-life in love with MHC and felt the need to share that with every. single. prospective. student. who set foot on campus, and thus began my journey in admissions.
I landed in senior year, not wanting to return to my home state of OH, but also not ready to be certified to teach in MA despite continuing with Education as one of my majors. That's when Mount Holyoke created their Admissions Fellows program, which was basically an entry-level admissions counselor position. That's when I realized, "Hey, I could work in college admissions!" It became like my college search all over again, finding the best fit for me. I chose Oberlin for my first job. After a few years, I was still in love with my work at Oberlin but also realized I had no problem telling a kid that Oberlin may not be the best fit for them...but they should look at schools A, B, and C that I had come to learn about in my down time at college fairs. It was then I realized that, while I still loved working in admissions - and would go on to work in admissions at two more colleges - that maybe I should start considering the other side of the desk! Fast forward several years, and I am now completing my sixth year as Washington Latin's Director of College Counseling.
What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
This is a tough one because there are so many - I don't think that's uncommon in our profession. I would have to say that my favorite memory encompasses the 2011-2012 school year. It was my second year at Washington Latin, and we were graduating our first senior class. I'd sacrificed a lot and spent immeasurable blood, sweat, and tears creating a college counseling program at an unproven charter school. I was seeing our first graduating class receive their - and our school's - first college acceptances, first scholarships, first Posse Scholar winners... Lots of firsts with that graduating class, but it simply reminded me that all the hard work that my colleagues and I had put into this first senior class was worth it!
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership (or membership) in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
I have to give loads of credit to PCACAC. The membership is filled with phenomenal people who genuinely want to do right by our students and their families and each other. It is also a group of professionals who also want to grow its members in the counseling and admissions fields, providing so many opportunities for professional development and social opportunities for networking. Because of people like Judy Edwards, Jayne Fonash, Jeff Smith, and Kathleen Martin, who took me under their wings early on and saw something special in me, I grew to be more confident in submitting proposals to present at our spring conferences and NACAC's national conferences and pursuing a spot on the Admissions Practices and Current Trends/Future Issues committees. If you want to learn or step outside your comfort zone, there are plenty of people in PCACAC who are willing to help you do that. It's cliché, but just ask! We're all here to help!
If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing?
In charter schools, you wear more than one hat. It's the nature of the beast, so not only am I the school's college counselor, but I have an advisory (homeroom) and I proctor a study hall and I teach four sections of Financial Literacy most semesters, also a curriculum I created for Latin. I was even the principal/director of our summer program for three years. I'd never wanted to do anything but teach, though, which is ironic considering how introverted and shy I tend to be. A few years ago, though, I realized that I don't ever think it was really about teaching. I just wanted to be in school for the rest of my life because it was always such a happy experience for me in a childhood that wasn't always happy. School was my refuge, but when you're five-years-old, you don't know yet that there are lots of things you can do to be in school forever. You know just "teacher". Even though I still don't like talking in front of groups of people, I do love teaching my Financial Literacy classes. I love that I get to share my knowledge and passion for the topic with my students and that I work at a school that encourages that. I'm just blessed that I get to do what I'm called to do and what I thought I wanted to do. At the end of the day, I'm still working with the same age group and moving them toward the same cluster of goals, which are graduating and figuring out what comes next.
What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
When I was in college, I had three jobs every summer and Christmas break. One of them was working in the meat department of a grocery store. Yes, I used to haul and cut huge slabs of meat. Not a pretty picture, but oddly enough, I enjoyed doing that, too.
What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
Can I say this without starting riots in the street? The Coalition App. I think the Coalition has their heart in the right place, but I think there is a lot that can be done that can make it a valuable tool for those at whom it is directed - and to support those who will be working with those students.