When you take a position in Woodlake High School’s counseling office there are some huge shoes to fill. Sally Pace, who retired in 2005 set a high standard tapping unprecedented sources of scholarship dollars for college-bound students. For the next decade, Carmita Pena continued the work of Sally Pace until she moved up three years ago to the front office to direct the Ag Academy.
In recent years, Woodlake’s counseling office has been in the capable hands of head counselor, Cassandra Ledesma. Though scholarship dollars have tailed off in recent years, Woodlake graduates routinely are awarded more than any of the other area schools.
A vacancy at Woodlake was created when Elizabeth Moya left in June to take a counseling position with Fresno Unified. Jacqueline Perez has been hired to fill the vacancy.
Perez is no stranger to Woodlake. In fact, while at Paramount Farming Company’s education program a decade ago she worked to steer unprecedented scholarship dollars to Woodlake students who attended four-year universities.
While with Paramount, Perez, a Porterville native and Fresno State grad, made the transition to become a counselor of Paramount’s Wonderful College Prep Academy, a charter school based in Delano. When Perez saw the Woodlake job opening she thought it would be an even better opportunity to use her unique skill set.
The daughter of farmworkers, she was one of four siblings who attended four-year universities. But she was the only one in her family to finish her degree program, and that’s one of the issues she hopes to address at Woodlake.
“The college may be a good fit but not a match,” Perez said. “I want to see more students be successful at college where many lack the socialization to find success.”
One program she’d like to introduce is to invite members of last year’s senior class to come back to school and answer questions for college-bound students and share tips on how to make it work.
“These seniors know the students who were here last year and their insight can be a powerful influence,” Perez said. “So many students and their families are intimidated by what admissions says it costs to attend college. We can break it down and show where each dollar can be found.”
It’s not about finding the resources, Perez says, they’re out there.
“What it comes down to is can each student learn to be resourceful?” says Perez. “Showing each student how to do that – that’s our job.”