Students Compete for Attention of Swamped Counselors at Arvin H.S.
Cynthia Gomez, 15, is a sophomore at Arvin High School in south Kern County. She shares one guidance counselor, Wendy Ward, with 552 other students in her class. Needless to say, gone are the days of just walking into the counselor’s office for some friendly advice. Getting guidance from Crider can take awhile, especially at critical times during the school year.
"When the school year starts or when the second semester begins, we’re not allowed to see our counselors (without an appointment)," says Cynthia. "There are so many students that need to make changes to their schedules, so we have to fill out a form."
This was a big problem for Cynthia during her freshman year.
"I was placed in a class I didn’t want to be in," she says. "I tried to fix it and went through the process and filled out the form.” It took three weeks for Cynthia to get a response.
Over time, Cynthia was able to establish a good relationship with her counselor, and the personal relationship has made a difference. "That problem for me hasn't really been there anymore since she knows who I am and she recognizes me." Cynthia's experience might be different today if she wasn't so persistent. "I feel that [my counselor] doesn't necessarily give me priority but… she'll look out for me and make sure I have the classes I need," says Cynthia. "I think if I didn't have that relationship, she would [still] put in the effort, but not as much as now."
But even with the communication improved, Cynthia feels that she is still not getting enough support. "I generally don't go in for much help besides my (class) schedule," she says. "It's too difficult to contact them for advice on college and other things. Recently, I went in to remind her that I wanted to be put in a class next year… I went everyday during lunch for almost a week, until I was able to find her," she adds. "It's bothersome because they tell us to look for them during lunch but they aren’t there."
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.