College Counseling: A Perfect Fit for Claudia Mendez
At a success based school with a high-stress college admissions process, the support of college counselors is crucial. The relationship with your college counselor becomes central in junior and senior year and is centered around launching Packer students into their next phase of life. But how did these counselors launch themselves into this particular occupation? New college counselor Claudia Mendez sheds some light on this subject.
Born and raised in California, Claudia attended UC Santa Cruz, and then moved to the East Coast for graduate school at Columbia University Teachers College, where she immediately fell in love with New York City.
Claudia knew that she wanted to be a college counselor for a very long time, and started working towards this goal in graduate school. Her career started as the director of the college programs at a non profit organization called Summer on the Hill, which is affiliated with the Horace Mann School. She worked with students from a wide range of schools, helping them navigate New York City independent middle and upper school admissions, and through this, in addition to her work as a college counselor, she learned a lot about all the NYC high schools. Her work with kids from all over the city, motivated her to pursue work in other schools, and eventually find Packer.
As a first generation college student with immigrant parents, Claudia strongly believes that although access—to jobs, higher education, and other opportunities—is not necessarily something given to you at birth, it is something with which education can provide you. This idea of achieving access became part of her personal mission. In her experience, not only did support refer to help in the academic realm, but also to people pushing her to “believe that [she] could do well,” thus furthering her educational access.
The support she received from family and teachers as well as a positive educational experience helped Claudia understand that she wanted to provide other students with this same kind of support and drive to believe in themselves to achieve a college education. Because of all the beneficial relationships she had with others in her journey through college, being a college counselor is a very personal job for her.
The job opening at Packer presented a very exciting opportunity for it is one of the schools that she always viewed as the right schools for her. Claudia was immediately inspired and motivated by the types of students that come here; it was the community and sense of purpose that made Packer “the type of place that [she] really connected with.” Her overarching view of Packer as “a space that is constantly challenging itself to be more, to do better” made the job such an excellent fit for her.
Now that she is working here, she is doing all she can to immerse herself in the community. To do so, she he has joined a few clubs and done shadow days to get to know what it feels like to be a Packer student. Beyond that, she has also gone to plays and sports games, a way of making initial contact with students outside of the official college counselling office, and getting to watch them do what they love to do beyond the academic walls of Packer.
Because she has only recently met with her assigned juniors for this year, Claudia has had considerable time to help the current seniors with their college process. She has loved aiding the seniors with their college essays, supporting them with supplements, helping students with the financial aid process, and having drop-ins for students when the other two college counselors were really busy. “Really getting to know this current senior class was phenomenal,” she said.
Current juniors are looking forward to working with Claudia. Willa Gilbert-Goldstein (‘20) admits that although “[she] was a little bit nervous at first about having the ‘new college counselor,’ after [her] first meeting with her, [she] realized just how kind, insightful, and full of perspective she will be throughout the entire college process.”
Going forward, Claudia is hoping to get to know her advisees as individuals, and build the types of relationships where she can give the best support possible. She is so excited to be starting with this class and to get to know every junior, both those she will be working with and those assigned to other counselors.