How budget cuts are affecting other schools

By Adrian Rios, 17, South El Monte HS
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Adrian says that when schools cuts resources, it's even more important for students to stay motivated.

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Like all schools in California, my school is suffering because of the economy. To make sure that the school’s budget got balanced and to try to save teachers’ jobs, the administration cut the Career Path Center’s funding before this school year started.

The Career Path Center (CPC) provided information on all the post-high school options students could consider, from college to the military to getting a job. Five teachers used to devote part of their days to working in the center, but now they’re all back teaching full-time.

My dad didn’t go to college so he doesn’t have many answers about the college search. My mom works long hours so she isn’t always available and I don’t have older siblings. So when I had questions about college or career possibilities, I knew the Career Path Center would have the answers. I had assumed that I needed to take both the ACT and SAT to get into college, but last year when I asked, I learned that I only needed one. I ended up taking both to see which test I’d prefer, but the CPC gave me fee waivers and saved me $193 on test fees. The staff also kept me informed about upcoming test dates and registration deadlines.

When I wanted information on Stanford University, I went to the wall of brochures and read about the programs and opportunities at Stanford and 20 other private schools. Reading the brochures, which were from schools across the country, was different than going to a website. Since the colleges sent them to my school, it showed the students that those colleges thought we belonged there.

Now many of those college brochures are gathering dust. And we no longer have presentations from college admissions counselors. The sign-up sheets for those presentations have been replaced with impersonal “How to fill out the FAFSA” pamphlets.

The staff answered questions our parents couldn’t

The Career Path Center is still open, but Adrian says it's less helpful without the teachers who used to work there. Photo by Elizabeth Sanchez, 18, South El Monte HS

The CPC was also important to many of my classmates because their parents speak little-to-no English or have not attended college, so they cannot help them with their college questions. My best friend Antonio’s parents don’t speak English. Antonio, who is also a junior, told me that he’s worried about his personal statements because there is no CPC staff to edit them like in previous years. He plans on asking teachers and other students to edit them in their free time.

Last year, another one of my friends procrastinated on all of her college applications and had to finish them in 10 days. The teachers who worked in the Career Path Center stayed with her until 6 p.m. every day for a week, and she ended up attending Cal State L.A. She was happy and grateful because without them pushing her she might not have applied and wouldn’t have gotten in.

The CPC also gave me some career advice. Based on the results of a career placement test I took through a CPC program, I was placed in a theater arts class with an instructor who worked in the stage design business for more than 15 years. She told the class that we could work as sound technicians for concerts, lighting designers on Broadway or floor managers for TV shows and movies.

We also used to have special projects. Seniors could job-shadow a person in a career they were interested in. One year, a student shadowed a mortician for the day, and that day she decided that’s what she wanted to do. I was hoping to follow a news reporter for a day, but now I have to wait until college to see if that’s what I want to do. It hurts that we lost such a great opportunity.

Without the well-staffed CPC, our counselors have tried to help us with college stuff even more. Every week they post scholarship opportunities on our school’s website. My counselor welcomes me in her office whenever she’s available. Also, the five teachers who worked in the Career Path Center still try to help us. One of them generously spared a few minutes from her busy day to tell me what to include (and not to include) in a scholarship essay.

But it’s not the same. It’s difficult to have one-on-one talks with our counselors about college plans because the five of them are far too busy helping the other 1,400 students at our school.

I understand that it isn’t my school’s fault. The administration had to make cuts, but this cut is seriously affecting our community. Without the CPC, I think fewer students will go to college in the next couple of years. Many won’t be encouraged to attend a four-year university, so they will either attend a local community college or won’t go to college at all.