FOCUS ON GRANTS: New College and Career Counselors Bring Deep Experience from Inside and Out to Costa

By Leanne Huebner, MBEF Board Member

Counselors

What do you get when you combine a former College Admissions Officer with an experienced High School Counselor? An unstoppable and truly inspirational duo at Mira Costa’s College and Career Center.

MBUSD, parents, students, and the community at-large are thrilled to welcome Judy Park (left) and Caryn Ramirez as the two new college and career counselors at Mira Costa. Caryn and Judy will work with students as they plan and prepare for their journey beyond high school – providing guidance, assistance and recommendations as they consider their future college and career options.

Caryn Ramirez will offer Costa students her “inside-the-admissions-office” knowledge as she is the former Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Southern California. A USC-alum herself, Caryn was involved in recruiting students, conducting admissions interviews, and making admissions decisions in her role. After completing her bachelor’s in Communications at USC, she earned her M.S. in Counseling.

Caryn is joined by Judy Park, a college counselor with nearly a decade of experience at ABC Unified School District in Cerritos. ABC’s Whitney High School is ranked 2nd in the state of California, and ranked 22nd nationally. At ABC, Judy led students on their six-year college track plan starting in sixth grade. She also worked to create meaningful college experiences for students by brokering partnerships with local universities for summer STEM programs, internships, student panels, field trips, college essay writing classes, and workshops.  She received her BA in Communications and her Master’s in Education from the University of Southern California.

Recently, MBEF caught up with the new team to find out what inspires them:

What inspired you to enter the field of education and become a counselor?

Caryn: “I have worked in education since I was 16 and have found the perfect career. While working at the Office of Undergraduate Admission at USC, I saw the profound impact that college counselors have on a student’s life. I knew that I eventually wanted to make the transition to working in a high school to help students navigate the college admission process. I am quite passionate about college admissions and although it is a stressful time in a senior’s life, it is also very exciting. I encourage students to trust the process and keep an open mind because, in the end, things have a way of working out! I’m very excited to be along for the journey and look forward to working with the students at MCHS.”

Judy: “I’ve known that I wanted to be a school counselor since I was in high school. During that time, I worked as a volunteer at a shelter for families and there was a student who was trying to navigate the college admissions process. I was commissioned to support this student and subsequently completely fell in love with the process of exploring, revising, planning, and dreaming.  Seeing hope blossom in this particular student even in the face of great tumult and distress inspired my choice.    I resolved to pursue a career that would allow me to continue to make an impact. The rest is history. It is my greatest privilege and delight to be able to help students through this very special phase in their lives. I get to help them identify their dreams and map out a way to get there. How incredible is that?”

1. What are your first impressions of Mira Costa and its students?

We have felt very welcomed during our first few weeks by the Mira Costa community. Students, parents, staff and the community have greeted us with open arms. Students are passionate and eager to learn more about the college and career process, which is amazing. We also feel lucky to have such great support from MBEF and are so thankful for this amazing partnership.

2. How do you suggest a student first approach the daunting task of their college search?

First off, don’t think of it as daunting! Think of it as an opportunity to learn more about various colleges and universities and, in the end, learn more about yourself and what it is you want from life. Start thinking about what is important to you in your future university. For instance, do you like warm weather or would you be interested in moving somewhere with a cold climate? Do you want to attend a small university or a large university? What major do you want to apply to? These questions will help you narrow down exactly what it is you are looking for and will make the college search much more manageable. Also try to visit various colleges that you might be interested in applying to. You might think you know a lot about a particular college, but you also want to be able to picture yourself there for four years. Visiting will help you imagine yourself living there.

3. What resources do you feel help a student most in thinking about college?

Naviance is a great tool that is available to students at Mira Costa. Students can search college admission data, search important details on universities and submit college application documents. We have been active in scheduling college visits in the CCC this fall. College visits are a great opportunity to hear what the admission process consists of for a particular university. It is also a great opportunity for the student to meet the representative that is (most likely) in charge of reading their application. This is an amazing way to connect a name to a face – come meet the person who might read your application and introduce yourself!

4. What three tips would you give our elementary and middle school parents who want to lead their students in pursuing college?

“Our tips for parents include:

  1. Their academic foundation needs to be strong and concrete. Seek out help when your son or daughter needs it because the classes will only get tougher as they go onto high school and beyond.
  2. Provide opportunities for your son or daughter to explore their talents. While it is important to prepare your son or daughter for college someday, this is also a time to have fun and explore where they can excel. Encourage them to get involved in various activities so they can find their individualized niche. Extracurricular involvement is becoming almost as important as academics in the college admission process!
  3. Plan now. Your college preparation really starts in middle school now – start talking about various colleges, visit colleges while on vacation, and begin educating your son or daughter about their various postsecondary options.”

5. Any individual story to share from a prior student with which you worked?

“You will hear us say it over and over again, but although the college search process can be stressful and overwhelming at times, it always seems to work out in the end. The best stories are the ones when students come back to let us know how much they are enjoying their life at college. We feel honored that we can help the MCHS community by assisting them finding their next path.”

Please join us in welcoming this dynamic duo to MBUSD! We look forward to an exciting year at the College and Career Center!

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About Manhattan Beach Education Foundation

Manhattan Beach Education Foundation is an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit established by parents and community leaders to support quality public education in Manhattan Beach. Since 1983, MBEF has granted much needed funds to supplement state funding and has helped MBUSD continually rank in the top three school districts in California. With more than 3,000 donors and annual grants exceeding $5 million, MBEF is one of the oldest and most successful foundations in the state.