Mary Crider is in her 8th year as a guidance counselor at Arvin High School in South Kern County. She currently serves 553 freshman students in their academic, emotional, and social development. In addition to that, Mary also deals with the impact of budget cuts.

“It creates a larger caseload which means more parents to meet with, more students with more issues, and more paperwork,” says Mary. On the positive side, “It’s more work, but good work,” adds Mary.

This year Mary instituted something that had never been done before at Arvin High School.

“We (counselors) sent out a letter to all the freshman parents to come in for a parent meeting with me,” says Mary. “I have already met with over 100 parents one on one with their student to plan their four years.”

Outlining a student's’ four year plan with parents is very important for Mary.

“I highly recommend it because it drives the parent into the plan of what is going on with their student and the reason is because there is something brand new for this class of freshmen in the district,” says Mary. “The new requirement is that by the end of their freshman year, a student must decide whether they will fulfill the A-G requirement (for college bound students) or pursue a three year pathway.”

Another strategy that Mary started this year at Arvin High School: email.

“When I went out into the freshmen classes to do presentations, I told them to email me,” says Mary.

Teachers were very helpful in assigning their freshmen students the homework of emailing Mary.

By now every freshman student has emailed Mary and she has replied to every single one.

This new alternative has created a conversation for some students.

“We talk about anything from “hey how was your weekend” to “can I talk to you about summer?”, says Mary.

For Mary, it makes her more effective in reaching out to her students despite the bigger workload.

Stephanie Espinoza is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.