Conversations in Education
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators. If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
December Newsletter: Why I Love Being a College Counselor
by Gloria Díaz Ventura, Director of College Counseling
Raised by two educators, my vehicle for possibility has always been education. My father emigrated to the U.S. when he was four years old, and my grandparents worked tirelessly to provide their four children with a private school education. My father earned a college athletic scholarship and went on to earn a PhD in history. My mother is one of six children and the only one to graduate from a four-year college. Within classrooms is where I learned to question and challenge.
Despite my upbringing, I never intended a career in education. As a political science major, my hope was to become a lawyer and start a career in politics. I believe strongly in access and opportunity and thought law would allow me to defend such values. After graduating college, I entered the private sector. To my surprise, unsolicited conversations from senior level employees began. They saw a bright-eyed college graduate and would stop by my desk to ask about my goals and dreams. People shared their life stories with me, opening up about regrets and what they would do over again if given the chance.
Over time, these conversations led me to question my path. During one particular visit with a mentor, I was asked, “What could you talk about forever?” and quickly responded, “How to help students apply to college”—though at the time, I didn’t have a clear picture of what this entailed. My senior year at Berkeley, I had been the director of a student-run nonprofit on campus that worked closely with the admission office to recruit students of color (a response to the UC system’s termination of affirmative action). I had enjoyed my time visiting public schools, talking to students, and sharing secrets of how they, too, could pursue their dreams. I decided to take a leap of faith and began a career in college admissions at USC.
After one year at USC, I began to identify the education gap present between high school and college for underserved students in Los Angeles. Wanting to reach students on campuses most in need of support, I decided to create an educational nonprofit, working with city officials, forming a board of directors, and raising funds to educate parents and students on the college process. Accion: Education in Action existed for ten years, serving Los Angeles charter high schools. I dedicated weekends to hosting programs for parents and students and evenings to meeting with potential donors, thus inspiring hundreds of students to pursue the path to college What an experience! I become emotional thinking of the struggles and sacrifices children in our very own backyards have to endure simply to achieve an education. Accion celebrated its tenth anniversary, after which I felt it was time to close our doors while we were at a high point.
It has taken me many years to become acclimated to a career in education. There is so much need, and change takes time in the education sector. And it wasn’t until I became a mother that I began to truly grasp the emotional journey that comes with raising a child. My career as a counselor and my experience as a mother have become interwoven in many ways; both have pushed me to become more empathetic and patient. Being part of a school community brings about many unexpected surprises, which I appreciate. I value the stability a career in education brings, combined with a busy day-to-day schedule that keeps me on my toes.
College admissions is a complex field, oftentimes political and unfair, but tough conversations push me to grow and expand my perspective. I love coming to work each day; inspired by my colleagues, challenged by my work, and fulfilled by the interactions I have with the families I serve! The ability to impact a life is my life’s purpose, and I’m grateful to the Prep community for continually motivating me to live my dream. The reward is in the process of walking alongside my students, helping them navigate rough terrain, and watching them rise to the occasion. In such a fast-paced world, we’re raising children who expect excellence in all facets of their lives, and as adults we understand this simply isn’t always emotionally healthy nor sustainable.
Three years ago, a new charge came my way when I came across an article in a college journal about the rise of anxiety and depression among teens. Having been a part of a highly selective college admission office, coupled with my experience at two independent schools, I believe (much like the housing crisis) the college admission bubble will burst. However, our children’s mental health is at stake. Thus, the curriculum I had crafted upon my arrival to Prep has been thoughtfully altered to take a more developmentally appropriate approach along with the strategic. In my conversations with students, I make the time to connect and visit more often, trying to model a more balanced approach to my work and to my life overall. This is the greatest lesson my work has offered over the years: the awareness to understand when my life is out of balance and when I’m straying from my true self.
I work in an optimistic environment, where anything is possible for a young student, and such hope is contagious. In January, I will begin my fifth year at Prep and look forward to many more moments of inspiration to come!
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