The 2017 Counselors That Change Lives Awards

The Counselors That Change Lives Award recognizes those whose dedication to the college counseling profession reflects the CTCL ideals. By helping students frame their search beyond the ratings and rankings to find a college that provides the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life, these counselors change lives. This award is our way of recognizing their tireless work, as summarized in the nominations below.

Colleges That Change Lives acknowledges all that they do to help students and families in the college search process. Congratulations to this year’s recipients!

Angelica Bailon — Saint Joseph-Notre Dame High School, CA
Dr. Angelica Bailon goes above and beyond the call of duty for her students. Whether it’s combing through their personal statements or regularly checking in with past students who are attending college across the nation, Angelica is a personal life coach to each of them. Her philosophy is that if she doesn’t know her students well, it is difficult to help them find a supportive college environment. To this end, she meets regularly with families to demystify the many options available to them, both in- and out-of-state, and to help families understand the importance (and definition) of fit.

Angelica understands college is a time of maturity, self-exploration, and growing independence, and she recommends schools that will best help students succeed in these areas. One of her favorite things to do is bring back college-going students to SJND – not to discuss their major or how the food tastes, but to have them share how they have grown personally during their college education. This has a profound effect on SJND students as they begin to see that the college search process – indeed, their college education – is about them, and no one else.

Educating fellow teachers and administrators on how to talk to students about college satisfaction has been a priority for Angelica. As a result, her colleagues have become supportive mentors, and the college search process has become a shared responsibility of SJND.

Diane Campbell — Fossil Ridge HS, CO
Diane Campbell knows her students well and works hard to encourage them to consider schools where she believes they could be a great fit.

Diane has created a vast network to expand her knowledge about colleges across the country. For one, she stays in touch with her graduates, not only to check on their progress and show them that she still cares about how they are doing, but also to learn more about colleges and universities through their eyes. Additionally, Diane has developed relationships with other counselors and independents across the country so that when her students look at colleges in other regions she is able to call upon these colleagues to get their insight and perspective.

And, she’s willing to go the extra mile herself — literally. Every year, Diane drives 120 miles round-trip to volunteer with the Denver National College Fair. She relishes the opportunity to keep current with changes on college campuses across the nation as well as to meet with colleges representatives to follow-up on her former students and to explore the opportunities for current and future Fossil Ridge students.

Josh Ditsky – Berks Catholic High School, PA
Whenever Josh Ditsky speaks with students, he emphasizes the importance of “fit.” He understands that a student’s success and happiness can’t be measured by and has little to do with rankings. He truly wants students to be happy and to find their college “home.”

The amount of time and effort Josh spends each year to coordinate events and programs to help students better understand the college search process is one way he shows how much he cares about his students. What is even more impressive, however, is that he seeks to educate an even wider audience and often invites students from nearby schools to attend these events.

In a county where people are comfortable with the status quo, Josh is never satisfied and works tirelessly to make more colleges/universities aware of his school. When meeting with admission representatives he works carefully to be sure they both understand his students potential fit with their college. To this end, he goes on campus visits and attends conferences to further develop his own relationships with colleges as well as to help his students and their families.

Aside from the college search, Josh is helping students to become young people who know how to carry on a successful conversation, give a proper handshake, and be respectful. He cares about where they go after high school, but more importantly, who they become!

Aliza Gilbert – Highland Park High School, IL
For many, Dr. Aliza Gilbert is considered to be “the expert” on anything and everything pertaining to college admission for undocumented students. It is her passion and area of expertise (not to mention the topic for her doctoral dissertation). This passion may seem to be a bit of a mismatch, given that her career has been spent working along Chicago’s “North Shore.” But, her dedication to this important issue is merely one of the qualities that makes Aliza a true counselor that changes lives.

No one works harder than Aliza to help college-seeking students. She does this by offering up her knowledge to anyone who asks – to her own students, of course, but also to state and local legislators, to undocumented students who will never know her, and to counselors trying to assist undocumented students through a process that was not built with them in mind.

To know her is to know that she always “leans in” to listen and then responds with compassion and thoughtfulness. Our profession is a stronger one as a result of Aliza’s work.

Ann Marano – Irma L. Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, TX
Rangel is a charter school for women and primarily serves a population of girls from low-income homes, many of whom have parents without degrees or even legal citizenship. Conversing fluently in Spanish and English, Ann coordinates workshops that help not only the student but the whole family by guiding them through a process that is often as foreign to them as it is for some of their daughters.

As the only college advisor for the school, Ann gets to know each and every student when they enter Rangel’s doors. She prepares students to make it at a public college or university but also encourages the girls to look beyond what they already know to discover other opportunities that may be a good fit for them. To that end, she researches colleges to get to the heart of what makes each one distinctive, and she encourages her girls to do the same – to ask questions which will help them to understand how each institution can serve their best interests.

Everything Ann does creates a culture of “college as an attainable goal” and – more importantly – ensures that each Rangel girl knows that her life matters and that she will have a future beyond high school.

Brian Rauscher – Peak to Peak Charter School, Colorado
Brian Rauscher has taken the college advising program at Peak to Peak Charter School from great to absolutely phenomenal. As early as ninth grade, students are immersed in the college search process through a series of panels that highlight various types of institutions ranging from large public state schools to CTCL-type schools in a way that does not focus on rankings or admission criteria but rather on fun facts that are more useful for fourteen-year-olds. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors attend smaller presentations by individual colleges during the annual fall college day. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

From bringing in a variety of college representatives to help with case study programs to running a summer boot camp for seniors to asking college reps to record videos chock full of expert advice for the college search, Brian and his colleagues have expanded the opportunities for a diverse range of colleges to enrich the search process for all their students.

As a result of Brian’s work with each student, admission reps can expect to meet students and see applications from students whose interests perfectly match their institution. By teasing out students’ interests and passions and helping them to curate a list of colleges where they will undoubtedly succeed, Brian is changing lives.

Margaret Rosenbaum – Uplift Summit International Preparatory, Texas
Margaret Rosenbaum works as both a school administrator, a leader in the Road to College Office, and mentor to those newer to the profession.

With a “scholars first” attitude in her strategic planning role at the Uplift Education district level and in her day-to-day interactions with students in her school, Margaret believes that each student’s college search should meet them where they are – and be as exciting and unique as they are. Her work opens doors that students never knew could be possible for them, and she celebrates with them as they make plans for life after high school.

As a leader implementing and sustaining a college-going culture for K-12 students, Margaret advocates helping students develop their goals for going to college well before their senior year. Her own never-quit attitude helps students develop the grit they need to not only get through the hard times but to dig in and learn to love the process as much as she does.

The average staying power for a teacher or counselor at public charter schools is around two years, but Margaret is serving as a steady role model for these first-generation students. They know she is there for them now and will continue to be there for them as they work towards their goals of graduating from college. She is truly a counselor that changes lives.