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Creating a Culture of Successful Postsecondary Transitions

By Priscilla Grijalva | November 2023

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Ductus exemplo (lead by example) and give students hope! Going on for more education or training is critical for our students and we want to make sure they know all their options beyond high school. That’s why, at San Jacinto Leadership Academy, we’ve worked to create an environment that supports students (referred to as cadets) on their journey to go on for more education or training. We take a school-wide, team approach to promote postsecondary options. The vision in San Jacinto Unified School District's safe, nurturing, transformative and equitable culture ensures each and every student graduates college and career ready with a passion for learning, the motivation to live responsibly and the capacity to be a problem solver as they successfully navigate their unique future.

Using the ASCA Student Standards: Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success, we tailor lessons to help our cadets understand that postsecondary education and life-long learning are necessary for long-term success (M.6). We do this by teaching classroom lessons on the University of California requirements and all the postsecondary options beyond high school. We use the career curriculum College and Career Make it Happen. We also hold workshops for our parents/guardians and cadets on concurrent enrollment, university requirements and scholarship application tips. Every Wednesday, cadets and staff wear university, community college, career technical education or military t-shirts. Our staff take our students on college and military base trips.

Transitions-1C.jpgOnce a month, our amazing administrators (Mike Luna and Lloyd Sheppard, shown) do a Friday Trivia. They get on the intercom during the last class period of the day and ask a trivia question. With an equity focus, they include relevant questions during National Hispanic Heritage Month, African American History Month, and so much more. The class that calls in with the correct answer is the trivia winner – the teacher wins a gift card and the class wins prizes donated from our college and military partners across the nation. As a school counselor, I run into the winning class, cheering with a loud cowbell and delivering the college/career prizes. Check out a video of our administrators in action.

In October, we have a College/Career Kick Off week. During this time, we have a door decorating contest and a college t-shirt contest. The advisory class that has the best college/military decorated door wins donuts. During this week, we hold a Reach Higher College and Career Fair in the evening. We chose this event name because we truly want our cadets to reach higher beyond high school. The University of California presents the university A-G (college prep) requirements in Spanish and English. A school counselor shares the military requirements to enlist. Then, cadets and parents/guardians can meet with local, state and out-of-state universities; our local community college; our military branches and career representatives such as the local fire department and police department. We have also arranged for the Live Better U program to present about their program, in which Walmart pays for 100 percent of college tuition, books for earning certificates, and more.

Throughout my career I implemented clubs called the Reach Higher Club. I created it to promote equity by viewing every student at our site as being capable of enrolling in and completing their education past high school – whether that’s at a professional training program, a community college, a four-year university or enlisting in the military. The Reach Higher Club is an additional support to assist cadets with scholarship applications, community service and postsecondary information. It supports cadets in developing leadership skills by providing opportunities for them to obtain knowledge, serve as a leader and gain insights into a variety of careers. The club also started a mentorship program to mentor younger cadets, get connected on campus, give back to the community and serve as positive role models on campus.

During the month of May, we have a district-wide College Signing Day. Specific to our site, we also hold a Beating the Odds Summit for our cadets, a program started by the Reach Higher National Initiative that focuses on sharing tools and strategies to help more students successfully transition to more education or. The program features a panel with guests from each postsecondary option, helping cadets will understand what they need to complete their education or training, including:
  • Exposing cadets to college and career opportunities
  • Understanding financial aid eligibility that can make college affordability a reality
Our Army recruiter is also bringing a STEM truck for our high school students to check out the different STEM careers.

Building relationships with our community and college/career partners is so vital! To support these connections, join the American School Counselor Association, National Association for College Admission Counseling and your state school counselor association. Attend college/career fairs and conferences. Pictured below (from L), Tori Gorsave (SJLA teacher), Jennifer Horne (SJLA teacher), Priscilla Gijalva (SJLA high school counselor), Dr. Vanessa Gomez (San Jacinto Unified School District equity director), and Theresa Gonter (SJLA middle school counselor) attended the Excellence through Equity Conference.

Priscilla Grijalva is a member of the ASCA Board of Directors and a high school counselor in San Jacinto, Calif. Contact her at