College and career counselor Elizabeth Stoner has left Tam to to take a job at Marin Promise. Stoner began working at Tam at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year and resigned shortly before the beginning of this school year. Tam was quick to find interim replacement, Susan Gertman, who worked at Tam for 10 years prior to Stoner. Stoner is trying her best to support the seniors as she begins her new work.
“Tam has hired me to handle the behind the scenes work, and Susan Gertman, a former Tam College & Career Specialist will be covering most of the college visits and will have drop-in hours for students to come and ask questions,” Stoner said.
Although Gertman is now filling in, for the first two weeks of school the doors to the College and Career Center were locked.
“Every time I have [checked] the college and career center, I have been almost everyday, [and] it has been closed,” senior Nikki Eliaschev said. The Tam district has a policy that they must open the job application to any other college and career counselor in the district. This accounts for the lack of a college and career counselor for the first two weeks of school. “With our policy with the district we have open up the position to anyone in the district that wants to transfer. We have to hold it open for 10 days to see if anyone applies to transfer. No one did. Then we open it up to the public, that’s what we just did a couple of days ago,” said Rice.
None of this has effected colleges visiting Tam, according to Rice. “[Colleges] contact Jane Shapiro, then she normally [directs them to] the college and career specialist, but there isn’t one, so she is sending them my way and then I forward them to Susan Gertman and she sets [the college visits] up,” Rice said. “The colleges are still coming.”
Stoner is also working very hard to make sure all of her former students feel supported.
“This is totally my own personal feeling, but I actually think I’m oftentimes better over email,” Stoner said.
“While I enjoy meeting with students in person, an email lasts forever and can serve as guidance long afterward, rather than a meeting which can sometimes feel overwhelming and be forgotten.” She said she has been committed to the Tam community since she has left. “My workbooks, checklists and notes have been well thought out in order to anticipate the questions of students so that they can access information faster … I wanted [students] to still have access to guidance,” Stoner said.
Rice feels that Tam students should not take the college and career center for granted. “Most schools don’t have college and career specialists, so it is a nice thing that we do. Most places you have to research college yourself, you have to go meet them for yourself. I thought it was pretty awesome when I first came here,” he said.
Although having a college and career center is helpful, the reality is that many Tam students use an outside college counselor. This becomes an issue of equity when many Tam students are not provided with the proper resources in navigating the college application process. “While, you absolutely do not need a college advisor in order to get your applications done correctly or get into any college, even a selective one, at the end of the day students who have a college advisor have extra help,” Stoner said. She explained that an outside college counselor is beneficial in organizing and editing students applications, but are not affordable for all.
“A student without any resources, who might be the first in their family to go to college is simply more likely to potentially make a mistake on an application or misread directions. That alone is a disadvantage.”
Senior Nikkki Eliaschev feels the same as Stoner. “[Private college counselors are] really really expensive,” she said. “Definitely, now that I am starting applications. I am starting to doubt myself,” Eliaschev said. There are some kids that I see who are lost in the process and don’t have the money to pay for [a private counselor]. I don’t think it is fair sometimes.”
Fortunately, Tam has tried to supplement the CCC with programs on campus, such as Bridge the Gap and 10,000 Degrees. “[These programs are] generally for students who are college-bound but generally don’t have college experience from someone at home. All of the different things you have to navigate, 10,000 degrees helps you with that,” said Rice. According to him, 10,000 Degrees supports students not only applying to schools, but throughout their college careers. Stoner is determined to keep assisting students at Tam that are unaccustomed to the application process. “For those students who are first generation or from low income families, it is important for them to know that there are resources specifically for them that do all the same things that college advisors do, for free,” she said.