Specialist’s help goes past college apps

Ryan McCarthy, Sports Editor

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Whether it’s reading college essays, seeking out scholarships, or interacting with students, College and Career Center specialist Patricia Perez is always there to support students preparing for life after high school.
Students with college-related questions are now directed straight to Perez, who sits down with many students to discuss college choices, the application process and other aspects of college preparation. Before her arrival to campus, counselors held the bulk of the college load, handling application essays, recommendation letters and submission progression.
She has been vital for helping counselors deal with more intensive questions from students.
“When a student is asking ‘What colleges should I look for this specific major?,’ or ‘Where should I start my college search?,’ we suggest that they make appointments with her to do that,” said counselor Danielle Morrella. “She has more time to really sit down [with students], and that’s kind of her specialty.”
Perez often goes above her job’s basic requirements, assisting students beyond just applying. One of her main goals is to find as many scholarship opportunities for students as she can, since paying for college is a challenge for students.
“For scholarships, it’s more volume than anything, trying to find the opportunities that would be available to at least a good amount of our students,” said Perez. “Now that the application process is winding down, more time goes into the scholarship search, because I know that’s a big concern for students everywhere, so I’m trying to find as many opportunities as possible.”
Perez has also worked to get more colleges to visit Branham, encouraging colleges to send representatives to speak to students. She often personally reaches out to premier universities, like Washington State, the University of Oregon, and UCLA, to visit and receives many requests from smaller institutions to send a representative.
“We set up a calendar where colleges can come and sign up to visit,” said Perez. “A lot of the smaller liberal arts schools come here often because they are the ones who usually sign up to come.”
Although she was brought to Branham for college preparation, one of her future goals is to reach out to students who choose to forgo a college education immediately after graduation, whether those students will enter the workforce or enlist in the military.
“Last year, I worked with kids who were ready to go to certificated programs, community colleges [and] apprenticeship programs, but the problem is finding ways to encourage those students to come in here,” said Perez. “I don’t know if those students know that I can offer that kind of assistance to them here yet, but it’s definitely something I do and something I would like to do more of.”
Out of all the things she does, she feels that getting to interact with students is one of the highlights. Whether she’s discussing deadlines, reading essays, or just having normal conversations, connecting with students is one of her favorite parts of the job.
“For me, getting to talk to students about what they want to do after high school, and helping them if they don’t know—to me, there’s not a cooler job,” said Perez. “To help somebody actually figure it out and see that light bulb go off over their head, that’s awesome.”