With older people in the middle of the college application process, the College and Career Center (CCC) at Berkeley High School (BHS) is often filled with students.
While CCC services are aimed at all grade levels, Mary Jacobs, the CCC assistant, said they are “primarily focused on seniors who meet college deadlines.”
In addition to Jacobs, the CCC has two college counselors, Jennifer Hammond and Yasmin Navarro, and they work in partnership with the pedagogical and student intervention counselors. Counselors are assigned to students based on their small school. The CCC also employs a college counselor, Julia Maciel, and a guidance counselor, James Dopman.
“The five of us are here to provide transcript review services, decide on college eligibility, your college interests, college research, and then the actual execution of the applying for college admission, ”Jacobs said.
At this time of year, the CCC also works with 24 volunteers to read essays for seniors.
“They will help you brainstorm, revise, and edit your final papers for college essays. … They work one-on-one with the students for half an hour or more, ”Jacobs said. Readers are present in the CCC most afternoons and Monday mornings via Zoom, and students often return to the same essay reader multiple times for full feedback at multiple points in their essay writing process.
“I love the CCC,” said Claire Greene, an essay reader who has volunteered for ten years. “There are a lot of things I could do with my time, but I can’t tell you how much I look forward to this time of year. It really is an exciting job. Really difficult word work.
Natael Worku, senior at Academic Choice (AC), said he was fortunate enough to enter Questbridge, a scholarship for low-income students, in large part thanks to the support offered by CCC’s essay readers. “I had to write tons of essays. … I came to the CCC every day for two weeks, and I signed up for the program, ”he said. “So I would say reading the essay is one of the best things about CCC.”
Each year, the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) votes to keep the CCC operating. “We’ve asked every year to continue the services, and every year they approve it,” Jacobs said. The CCC is also funded by the BHS Development Group, a parent-run nonprofit that raises funds for equipment, educational opportunities, and more.
According to Jacobs, the CCC is working with the Destination College Advising Corps (DCAC) organization to better help seniors with the requests. The DCAC supports students with fewer opportunities by placing highly qualified university graduates in spaces like the CCC to advise them. They work with a cohort of 150 students to provide college preparation support and advice.
Like many aspects of the school, the pandemic was a challenge for the CCC. Jacobs said there was a decrease in availability for students, as one would expect. Although the CCC was completely virtual last year, the counselors still helped students through the application process.
Despite the fact that the school is back in session, the CCC uses a hybrid model in some cases. According to Jacobs, this is because Zoom opens up more opportunities for students, such as visits to the university. Now, students can simply click a link to listen to a presentation and ask questions about a college they’re interested in.
The pandemic has also changed, and in many cases eliminated, the testing requirements for many colleges.
“We hope the college you choose has gone blind to testing because we believe a holistic approach is better assessment,” Jacobs said. “You look at the strength of someone’s schedule, the grades, the activities they’ve done outside of the classroom. All of them show more of a student’s potential than a test result.
“It’s not just college-oriented here. Mr. Dopman helps students learn about careers and jobs, ”said Navarro. Dopman organizes CV workshops and searches for work opportunities for students.
Students who The Jacket spoke to said they were extremely grateful for the time and effort that CAC counselors and staff put into helping students.
“Even during the Thanksgiving break, Ms. Navarro was there on Zoom with me, helping me step by step,” said Karan Bhakta, head of BHS. “They give you a lot of support, and they really want you to do your best.”