TBT Recollections of a High School Counselor: “College Memories: The Long Road”

imagesIn the fall of 1969 I began my sojourn into the world of higher education in pursuit of my Bachelor’s Degree. Although I had graduated high school by the slimmest of margins and had to rely on the the kindness of an instructor who changed my grade just hours before the ceremony, I was quite confident that I would do well in college. Boy was I wrong!

I didn’t realize that the road to academic success, at least my particular stretch, was long and winding and would take me nearly 19 years to complete.  Of course I wasn’t in college the entire time. In my first attempt I attended Citrus for 3 semesters. Each semester I began with a  full load of 15 units but managed to earn a grand total of just 9 units, 3 per semester. Seems I was better skilled at dropping classes than completing them. During my stay at Citrus I spent most of my time in the Student Center listening to music , drinking Cokes and eating fries with my friends. We used to joke that we were all majoring in Hearts. Yeah we had a hell of a good time! Had I been more ambitious and self motivated I know I could have earned my BA, instead I became practiced in the art of BS.

Realizing what a colossal failure my college experience had become I finally quit school and entered the labor force in 1971 where I bounced from job to job and changed careers several times and became a “jack of all trades and master of none.” I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. The problem was I was grown up and had to make some life changes fast. None of the jobs I had were satisfying, oh most paid well but as we all learn, it’s not all about money. Through it all, in the back of my mind was the  nagging notion that I wanted to go back to school. I’d totally blown my first opportunity and given a second chance I knew I could make amends and earn my degree.  I just needed to make it happen.

Twelve years later in the Spring of 1983 I returned to the scene of the crime and re-enrolled in classes full time. Citrus hadn’t changed much but I was a new man, eager to learn and determined to earn my degree. The second time around I managed to complete my Associated Arts Degree in 2 years and transfer to Cal Poly Pomona where I graduated cum laude in 1988. Funny what a difference maturity and direction can make huh?

It is my educational journey that moved me to go into high school counseling. I wanted to be “the counselor I never had” when I was in high school and I believe I managed to do just that. When I was in high school my counselor was not readily available to students. I saw him regarding academics perhaps three times my entire senior year and not once to discuss college. I did however see the Attendance/Disciplinary Counselor more often than I should have. In 1969 Azusa High School was a predominately Anglo school. Mexican-Americans made up less than 34% of the student body and most us weren’t expected to go on to college. One of my buddies was told flat out that he wasn’t college material and should stick to auto mechanics as a career. I’m sure other Mexicans were told something similar. But then that was the way it was back then.

The fact is I didn’t do well my first time in college because I wasn’t prepared. My counselor did nothing to help me and I had no one in my extended family who I could talk to about it. When I got to Citrus I was lost and confused. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was not a good feeling. That is why my 15 years as a counselor was geared to helping my students prepare for life after high school. I had an open door policy in my counseling office and urged my students to take advantage of it. I did my best to never turn away a student. In cases where it couldn’t be helped I always made a point to call the student in as soon as possible.

I believe that most important part of being a school counselor is your availability to students. It is also an essential part of good parenting. Children must have access to you and you must listen to them and offer guidance and assistance where possible. Your advice and guidance  is essential to their success. Students can sense your sincerity, they can tell if you truly believe in them of if you are just paying them lip service. They are a lot smarter and sensible than many people, parents teachers and counselors included, give them credit for. Students worry about their future, they need someone to turn to with their questions and concerns. I wish I had had a good counselor when I was in high school. He/she may have helped me avoid the pitfalls of my first college attempt. Then again, maybe not, I was pretty bull-headed and full of myself back in the day. Weren’t we all…

Just a Thought…

 

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