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FOCUS ON GRANTS: Counseling Makes It Happen

By November 15, 2013eNews

Ever since California funding reductions forced cuts to counseling, MBEF has been supporting Mira Costa’s reknown College and Career Center counselors who help our students find that right path beyond MBUSD.

Last year, Costa graduates matriculated to 175 colleges across 39 states and four countries. Class of 2013 Costa graduates are now freshman at every UC, nearly every Ivy League university, USC, MIT, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, and scores of other top-notch universities. Over the last few years, approximately 95% of Costa grads have matriculated to either four- or two- year colleges.

Costa is fortunate to have its CCC team and seven other counselors. While the American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor to 250 students, California public schools on average provided only one counselor for every 810 students in 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Thanks to its annual MBEF grant, Mira Costa has nine counselors for a ratio much closer to the recommended amount, at roughly 270 to 1.

This year, two new faces – Megan Anspach and Kristi Branim – joined the College and Career Center to tackle the arduous but rewarding tasks of finding post-Costa opportunities for the Class of 2014 and beyond.

Kristi Branim enters the halls of Mira Costa directly from a Florida high school where she served as Director of Guidance and College Counseling for several years. She brings a decade of counseling experience working at all three K-12 levels – elementary, middle and high school.  The native Tennessean has earned her Masters in Counseling and is a National Board Certified Counselor as well.

Megen Anspach joins Mira Costa from the Los Angeles County Office of Education where she worked as the Regional Occupational Counselor at Beverly Hills High School, specializing college matriculation and career development. She brings seven years of counseling experience to the students of Costa. Originally from Hawaii, Megen is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, where obtained her B.A., M.A. and counseling certification.

We recently sat down with Kristi and Megen to get more insight into their passion for counseling.

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

Megen: “I have always known I wanted to work in education and originally thought I would be a classroom teacher. While working toward that goal I discovered my true passion was in fact outside of the classroom. I absolutely love helping students, parents, and other teachers connect with the support services they need to deal with the issues they are facing. My philosophy is the development of the whole student as well as the importance of setting high expectations. My counseling philosophy is all about finding the “right fit.” I believe in the importance of finding the “right fit” in all aspects of life – whether that is choosing a career, college or a relationship.

Kristi: “I became an educator because of my love of helping and being involved with young people. After a stint teaching, I decided that counseling was even more appealing to me. Counseling has been by far the most rewarding job I have ever had. I strive to be an encouragement to students and am always looking for new ways to be a better counselor. I constantly learn new things from my students and believe that having an open mind is extremely important. You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.

2. What are your first impressions of Mira Costa and its student body?

The students at Mira Costa are very bright and engaging. The community as a whole has been very welcoming and supportive of us joining the Mira Costa family. It is a pleasure helping students navigate the college process and being a part of this wonderful school. Lastly, it is refreshing to learn about the parental support of counseling and its importance through the long standing grant from MBEF for CCC.

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

Before students begin the external process of searching for colleges, it is important for them to do an internal self-reflection to identify their interests and abilities. This self-awareness step can help guide students in finding the right match in a college. Next, students should compile a tentative list of colleges that match their individual interests, abilities, and goals. Students should research the schools on their list and become knowledgeable about individual admission requirements and each colleges’ statistics to ensure that they are making realistic decisions. Students should also consider college environment including location, size, available majors, and total cost per year. When students have completed that research, they should compile a final list with several options. We encourage students to enlist the support of their parents, community members and counselors as well as utilizing the many resources available in the CCC throughout this process.

4. What resources do you feel help a student most in thinking about colleges?

There are a multitude of resources available for students to utilize in the college process. Naviance (a software program) is provided for the students at Mira Costa and is a tool that provides search capacities, organizational tools and is the primary means by which student documents are submitted to colleges for applications. Some other great online resources that we find most helpful for students in conducting college research are Collegeboard, Cappex, and College Navigator. The CCC continuously provides opportunities and compiles resources to help students navigate the college process. Lunchtime workshops, college representative visits, expert panel speaker events, individual meetings with the college counselors, and a vast offering of written resources are just a few of the opportunities students can take advantage of through the CCC.

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

1. Begin talking about college with your child as early as elementary school. Take advantage of any time you have an opportunity to visit colleges, whether that is when you are on vacation or seeing a football game.

2. Build a strong academic foundation beginning in elementary school, in order to prepare students for success at the high school level and beyond.

3. Encourage your students to explore and pursue their passions academically, athletically, socially, and artistically at both the school and community levels.

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

We each have so many stories of students whom we have helped over the years. Our favorite ones always seem to include hearing from former students who are currently attending college. Knowing that they are thriving, finding success and have made a great college match is so rewarding. It is a true joy to know that we have helped students in their path to becoming successful adults.


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