College fever at SVHS

Posted on November 10, 2010 by Sonoma Valley Sun

In the College and Career Center, from left, counselors Laura Losk, Maricela Sanchez and Center director Kathleen Hawing help college-curious students Wendy Contreras, Doris Martinez and Judith Pulido.

Whether a graduate plans to go to a trade school, Santa Rosa Junior College, Chico State or dreams of UCLA or Harvard, Sonoma Valley High School is striving to provide their students with the best possible preparation for wherever their dreams take them.

It starts in the College & Career Center, transformed into a one-stop shop for college-bound seniors.

SVHS employs three knowledgeable counselors who not only serve students of all grades, but also assist seniors with applications and recommendations. The staff is aided by Kathleen Hawing in the College & Career Center, a long-time SVHS Spanish teacher who now provides college and career support full time.

Hawing attended a workshop this past summer led by author Loren Pope on “Colleges That Change Lives.” It inspired her to invite some of the colleges featured in the book to make presentations to SVHS students this semester. Overall, visits from colleges across the country are up by more than 10 percent, with 23 universities visiting the campus.

Hawing has also teamed up with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation Teacher Support Network (TSN) to offer a series of campus workshops for juniors and seniors. Some of this fall’s topics included: “ABC’s of College Applications,” “Navigating the Common App.,” “Beyond the UCs and CSUs: Building a College List,” “How to Become a College Athlete” and “What You Can Be Doing Now to Improve Your Chances of Being Accepted into Your Top Choice for College.”

Workshops are held in the College & Career Center, which also saw the addition of part-timer Mary Klenow last fall. She provides both administrative help in the Center, and also has general college planning expertise as well.

Initial changes at SVHS came early last year when Hawing and the counselors updated the official School Profile, the document used by colleges to evaluate the school, and other key resources.

In recent months, the school has worked with TSN volunteers to completely revamp its entire web site. The College Counseling section of the site is now as complete and professional as any school in the nation. It makes an exhaustive College Handbook available to all students and their parents, and it contains a wealth of information about the college planning process, from freshman year onwards.
One issue that has perhaps prevented SVHS students from being more successful in the college application process in the past was the lack of any convenient or affordable SAT preparation classes in Sonoma.

In response, the high school worked with TSN volunteers to make relatively low-cost SAT prep available on campus. Additionally, a grant from the Ed Foundation added 100 SAT prep books and college guides for student use.

As tuition costs rise, even for California public colleges, financial aid is more important than ever. SVHS provides a Scholarship Night to inform students about local money available, and presents financial aid workshops, coming in January.

SVHS is also working hard to capture more specific data about its graduating students. All senior complete a “Post-High School Plans” survey for accurate reporting as to where SVHS seniors are heading. The school hopes for closer contact with its graduates over time.

Small changes to the physical environment at SVHS have enhanced the College Bound culture as well. Every Thursday all SVHS faculty and staff are asked to wear the shirt of their alma mater, the theory being that seeing various college names and logos can help start a conversation about college with even the youngest students. The Center itself, a place where students now have access to computers for college applications and scholarship research, is colorfully adorned with college banners, posters and endless stacks of college view books. Some of these efforts were traditions begun by retired Career Center staffer Mick Chantler.

Principal Dino Battaglini has made college-bound efforts a priority. He is committed to doing whatever it takes to enhance the school’s college-bound culture. This fall he evaluated every class the school offers to increase the number that are A-G eligible where possible, and he is committed to adding college-level Advanced Placement classes as appropriate.

Lorna Sheridan is a Sonoma Valley Education Foundation Teacher Support Network, active in SVHS’s College & Career Center for the past two years leading college planning workshops and working one-on-one with juniors and seniors applying to four-year colleges. She graduated from Princeton University and oversees the admissions interviewing efforts for Princeton in Northern California.

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