Faculty Focus: Elizabeth Gonzalez (Counseling)
FOR MPC COUNSELOR ELIZABETH GONZALEZ, EACH DAY BRINGS REWARDS, CHALLENGES AND NEW EXPERIENCES
By: Lewis Leader
For Elizabeth Gonzalez, now in her second year as a counselor at Monterey Peninsula College, each day is different and brings its own challenges and rewards.
Ms. Gonzalez, who worked part time as a counselor at Hartnell College before coming to MPC, sees as many about 30 to 45 students a week depending on the time of the semester, Monday through Friday. The sessions generally last 30 minutes. The issues are myriad.
“I would say that one of the most prevalent issues is balancing school with other responsibilities,” Ms. Gonzalez says. “Some additional issues that I see students facing include: the need for more academic support or being comfortable with seeking the academic support that is available, being unsure about which major/career to pursue, and financial challenges.”
There are also those who have found difficulties in the transition between high school and college, and those who are returning to higher education after many years away, perhaps while also raising a family or holding a job, or both, she says. A common theme is one’s personal development.
“It’s exciting for me to become an advocate and a supporter for the students,” Ms. Gonzalez adds. “I like the one-on-one aspect of my work.”
One advantage that Ms. Gonzales has is that she has been in the students’ shoes.
After graduating Salinas High, Ms. Gonzalez started school that fall at UC-Berkeley, but it wasn’t a good fit for her.
She returned home and enrolled at Hartnell College and things went well. Ms. Gonzalez earned her Associate of Arts Degree in General Studies with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences and transferred to UCLA, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a minor in Education Studies.
Three years later, she received a Master of Arts Degree in Counselor Education at San Jose State and was quickly hired by Hartnell.
Classes at MPC begin in mid-August, but before starting in 2017 Ms. Gonzalez was on campus in mid-July, speaking with and getting trained by veteran counselors, and even shadowing some of them during the summer school session.
She has done considerable work with first-generation students from Mexico, where her father was born. Her mother is a native Californian.
The students she and other counselors work with have diverse backgrounds, among them Latino, Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, Pacific Islands and Middle Eastern students and others.
Her work at MPC job has evolved. Where she was first “acclimating to my responsibilities with counseling appointments and in the courses I was teaching,” she has developed a greater self-confidence.
Counselors also have teaching duties at MPC. She is currently teaching two courses.
One is PERS (Personal Development) 10: Introduction to College Success, a one-unit course that covers campus resources, school policies, degree and transfer requirements and other information to help students transition to the community college, she explains.
The other is PERS 71, Foundation of Career Choices. It is taught over two Saturdays, eight hours each.
Ms. Gonzalez is also deeply involved with the CTE (Career Technical Education) programs at the school.
Some 12.5 million high school and college students throughout the United States take part in CTE. It helps prepare students to succeed in careers and/or upgrade their skills.
Ms. Gonzalez estimates that she spends half her time at MPC devoted to CTE, working closely with fellow counselor Jackie Stratton, who has the same assignment.
“As a team, Jackie and I have tried to build more of a connection between CTE programs and the counseling department by inviting CTE faculty to present about their programs at counseling meetings and by taking the counseling department to visit some of the CTE programs,” Ms. Gonzalez says.
The two counselors make presentations at some of the CTE programs’ introductory courses and explain program options and requirements to the students. They also provide direct counseling services to those students.
Reflecting on her experiences at MPC, she says, “It’s been very fulfilling to help all of the great students at MPC. I’ve had the opportunity to meet students from so many different backgrounds and I’ve seen first-hand how hard-working and driven MPC students are.”
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