College and Career Center opens to students, parents
College and Career Center’s guidance and counseling technician Evelyn Casillas (center) helps a student and parent gain information on the college application process. (Photo by Accolade photo editor Megan Shin)

After a 10-year absence, the College and Career Center has reopened in Room 2 so students and their parents can seek advice on post-high school options as well as find out how to obtain work permits for any part-time jobs. 

“We want to help kids open doors for themselves post high school,” principal Allen Whitten said. “The whole purpose of high school is to open doors for students after graduation. Through that office, the College and Career Center, we feel like we can help kids pursue whatever avenue they want to go for after high school.”

Whitten said no additional expenses were allotted for the center; equipment like computers and a printer were already available. All he had to do was figure out a room to furnish everything.

“It was mostly a matter of taking resources we already had and [then put] it all in one space,” he said. 

Staffed by guidance technician Evelyn Casillas, the center located across from the main office wing is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Students who wish to speak to Casillas don’t need to make an appointment; they can just stop by during break, lunch and before and after school. 

Sunny Hills is one of the three campuses in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District to make such a facility available to students and parents, following the lead of Sonora and Fullerton high schools, Casillas said.

The center assists students with important dates and deadlines in regards to the application process — when to submit transcripts and how, contact information for admissions officers, summer college classes and programs and help with test registration and score submission, she said.

She was selected to oversee the center not only because of her 20 years of experience working in the district in various positions, but also because she regularly attends workshops and trainings for financial aid, the college application process and college community outreach meetings, said Casillas, who transferred to Sunny Hills from a small private school and graduated in 1997.

I truly believe that my high school experience being a transfer student and a Lancer alumni helps me connect with the students and understand their needs,” she said. “[I hope] I can help guide them and be there as support for them anyway I can.

The center also contains other amenities such as two computer stations, a printer and work table stations for students to do homework. These things are available for general student use so if students need to print out their homework from the center’s printer, they are allowed to, Casillas said.

Besides serving students’ needs, Casillas wants to make the space available to parents as well.

“We want to make a community-based room so that [parents and students] can come and go as they like,” Casillas said. “I feel the center will give parents a go-to place to sit down and ask those stressful questions regarding important deadlines, financial aid applications, tutoring and any other questions regarding their students current academic progress.

The guidance tech said she plans to inform the community about the center through the use of social media and Aeries communication online; she also plans to promote it via email, text messaging and phone calls.

For example, Casillas said she sent an email via Aeries communication on Aug. 27 inviting parents and students to stop by the center. The email also included a sign-up sheet for 2019 Fall College Visits, a private school student information packet for seniors applying to private colleges and information on the Sept. 11 SH 2019 College Fair at Sonora High School from 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

Though senior Matthew Merioles was not aware of the center, he said he appreciates the center because it offers students a chance to consider what they want to do with their lives. 

“I feel like most of us are so busy with school that we don’t have time to expand our horizons on what we really want to end up doing,” Merioles said. “It’s nice to give students a good sense of direction especially at this crucial point of our lives.” 

Junior Rebecca Worrell, who also did not know about the center, said she is excited about it because it will help students who don’t know much about the college application process.  

“I have some friends who are lost on filling out their college applications because they have no one to help them and they’re the first in their family,” said Worrell, who plans to visit the center in her senior year for college applications. “Having this College and Career Center will be so useful to these students as well as every other student who needs a little guidance with their college and what paths to take in their life after high school.”

Casillas has also invited admissions officers from different schools to hold workshops for students and parents. In fact, she already has over 30 schools booked for these workshops. 

To sign up, students can go to sunnyhills.net and go to the “Guidance/Counseling” section to find the “College & Career Center.” There, they can find a calendar with multiple workshop dates and sign up for them.

Since most testing takes place during the spring, these workshops will start in September and primarily take place during the fall, Casillas said. 

One resource that school officials provide is a free to use website called californiacolleges.edu. With all students already given permission to access the website, they just need to enter their login information and they then can take a personality or career assessment. The specifics of the login information were not available at press time.

Based on the test, which contains questions that range from multiple choice to agree or disagree responses, a student will receive a career profile that matches them with specific schools.

“From there it guides you to what education level you need for that career and schools which offer those majors,” Casillas said. “It includes resources to search up to date college and career information as well.”

The center will plans to introduce the website to sophomores in October, Casillas said. 

“I think that will be something exciting for students to have that resource on their own account,” she said. 

The school began to push more for the center after the Western Association of Schools and Colleges [WASC] visited in February, Whitten said. 

Though Sunny Hills received a six-year accreditation term with a one-day visit in three years–the best accreditation WASC can give–WASC agreed when administrators said that the school needs to improve on their college and career education and support for students. As a result, the center was approved and created over the summer. 

“A lot of community members, both parents and students, have asked for a place they can go to be able to get those resources or [get their] questions answered without having to go to the counseling office if their counselor wasn’t available,” Casillas said. “We’re just kind of hoping to give that support.”

Whitten said he’s excited to know that students won’t be on their own during their college admissions process. 

“Stop by, check it out, meet with Ms. Casillas. She’s awesome,” Whitten said. “Learn how that could be a resource for you as a student.”

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