Carson High School senior Clare Stephensen, left, junior Elan Baker, senior Graham Giles and senior Alexis Aranda share their experiences Thursday about working with their school counselors to choose the right academic pathways to prepare for college or career. Not pictured is senior Isabella Martinez. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)
Junior Elan Baker has been taking Advanced Placement psychology and preparing for the test. But she also got a nudge from her counselor that she could push herself for a greater academic challenge.
“I wanted to see if I could handle an AP class, which, so far, it’s staying organized and kind of prepping myself because I do expect a higher work ethic from you because it is an AP class, but I really enjoy it so far Baker, 17, said. “It’s not been too challenging. It’s more like, I need to step up. Most of the work that we do is in class, taking notes and interacting, kind of working on our own … and learning on our own.”
The week of Feb. 7 to 11 was National School Counseling Week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, and a chance to honor the efforts school counselors make in helping students plan for their academic and career journeys. Carson City School District’s 14 counselors at the middle and high school levels come from various backgrounds. There are none currently working at the elementary schools.
Bridget Gordon, CHS career counselor, met with the Appeal on Thursday with five students who represent the various possible pathways for local high school students who are still deciding about college or career as they advance from their freshman through their senior years.
Some like Baker choose the College Board’s rigor in its AP curricula, though she credits any self-confidence in her own test preparation skills to her counselors’ reassurance and assessment.
Others might choose Western Nevada College’s JumpStart classes, a dual enrollment study that allows students to earn college credits while still in high school.
Senior Graham Giles, 17, has opted for the CHS Career and Technical Education program and so far has earned nine college credits. Giles said his ambition is to become a video game designer and animator.
“I decided to take advantage of the CTE pathway to help lead me into my future and careers,” Giles said. “I enjoy the challenge of doing real-life work and making logos for actual businesses.”
The CTE option in Nevada tends to be fruitful. According to the Nevada Department of Education, youth involved in CTE programs graduated at a 91.72% graduation rate in the class of 2021 compared to an 81.31% statewide average rate. A total of 76,035 high school students and 2,284 middle school students are enrolled in such programs during the 2021-22 school year.
As a student of graphic arts teacher Patricia Ababio at CHS, Giles often helps to develop undertakings such as the recent East William Street Complete Streets Project and Bordewich Bray teacher Kinkade DeJoseph’s latest book cover.
Gordon said it’s a job and a joy for the counselors to help students understand how to turn their passions into employment opportunities.
“They don’t even realize there are jobs connected to things they love,” Gordon said. “It’s hard to think about a future.”
Senior Isabella Martinez said Gordon’s advice has strengthened her interest in tattooing for which she hopes one day to move to Oregon to further her education.
“I’m still indecisive on what I want to do … but I don’t really see (Gordon) as my counselor,” Martinez said. “She has a lovable and charismatic personality. I can trust her and be comfortable around her. I see her as someone I can trust and depend on for what I need to do.”
Gordon said Carson High’s seven counselors have about 320 students they each stay with for about four years assisting for their short- or long-term academic needs.
“I think the crucial role we play is that we get to know our students so well we get to stay with them all four years so that when they graduate, they have this connection and we know what they’re doing,” Gordon said.
The counselors are helping students like senior Alexis Aranda, 18, for example, to talk out his decision to go to police academy should he choose. Aranda said he is familiar with a few officers through the county. Carson High’s team have helped him stay on track as well, he said, especially having returned from being online full-time last year to back in the school this year.
“For me, the life decisions I’m making are best because I’ve worked hard for (my three) siblings,” he said. “Mostly, the school has been treating me well, and I will thank a lot Miss Gordon, my counselor, for supporting me. … I’m just glad to be back here full-time.”
For senior Clare Stephensen, 17, helping to regain her focus after she worried about falling behind was one way her counselor assisted last semester, she said. She’s been taking JumpStart math classes.
“I needed to drop a class last semester, which was a really hard choice to make and it was something that I was afraid of doing, but the whole time my counselor supported me through it and I was able to make up those credits and I ‘m even on track to graduate now with an associate’s degree and with a high school degree,” Stephensen said.
Stephensen hopes to go to college to complete her bachelor’s degree in marriage and family therapy, work with someone in a practice and start her own in the future, she said.
“Paying for college is so expensive, so getting that two years of free college and potentially being done sooner really meant a lot to me and my family,” she added.
District Spokesman Dan Davis said it’s also important for students to recognize whichever they might pursue, they always have an advocate on their side.
“Preparing for the ACT (American College Testing exam) and all these other things and what they’re doing in college, that’s extremely helpful to have that person in your corner that has the confidence in you where it previously didn’t exist,” Davis said.
At a recent board meeting, Trustee Laurel Crossman announced some of Carson High School’s latest data trends that 145 students are taking 732 JumpStart courses this year, and 300 students are enrolled in 21 Advanced Placement courses. Last year, 256 students took 507 AP tests, with 59.7% scoring a 3 out of a possible 5 on the exam. Nevada’s statewide average for the AP exam was 46.9%, and the global percentage was 55.1%, Crossman reported from the high school.
Carson Middle School counselor Elisabeth Savran has received her National Board Certification. The process helps educators establish themselves in a high mark of achievement. Gordon said others are working to achieve their certification. The district will be offering informational meetings for interested staff members in March.
Gordon said as a counselor, she enjoys working with Carson High’s students and to provide any assistance to them where possible.
“We just feel so lucky,” she said. “I never leave this sad job. I’m so fortunate. All of us are so lucky because we get to be cheerleaders all the time.”