National School Counseling Week is celebrated each year during the first full week of February—this year, February 6-10, 2023—and focuses public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems and how students are different as a result of what school counselors do.
This year’s theme, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), is “School Counselors: Helping Students Dream Big.” This theme highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career.
At YES Prep, our secondary schools have student support counselors as well as college counselors. Our student support counselors provide our students social, emotional and mental health support during their time at YES Prep. While our college counselors offer our students guidance in planning for life after their high school graduation.
We asked our counselors to share why they chose this profession and the impact their role has on our students and families. Here’s what they had to say!
Brianna Brown, YES Prep West Secondary
Brianna Brown was born and raised in East Palo Alto, California. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Prairie View A&M University and her Master of Science in Counseling with a specialization in school counseling and emphasis in college counseling from San Francisco State University. Brown joined YES Prep six years ago and currently serves as the director of college counseling at YES Prep West Secondary, home of the Marvels.
Brown became a counselor because she believes an entire community of people must work together to provide students a nurturing environment and the necessary academic and cognitive skills to navigate to success. She said that the best part of her job is building everlasting relationships with her students. “I love following students along their high school journey and being part of their college application process. The excitement on their faces when they open their acceptance letter lets me know my job is done!”
As for the impact her role has on our students and families, Brown shared, “Having worked in the education spectrum for nearly a decade, I have taken the time to build trust and learn about the communities I serve. My impact has helped students become hyper-aware as they develop the skills to think bigger than themselves, prompting them to examine social and cultural conditions and to cultivate transformational resistance and critical consciousness. By the time they graduate they have learned to advocate for themselves to become social change agents and role models to their communities.”
I love following students along their high school journey and being part of their college application process. The excitement on their faces when they open their acceptance letter lets me know my job is done!”
Jassive Esquivel, YES Prep East End Secondary
Jassive Esquivel is from Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature and psychology from the University of Houston. Esquivel joined YES Prep five years ago and serves as a college counselor at YES Prep East End Secondary, home of the Explorers.
As a first-generation DACA student, Esquivel shared that the college application process was daunting for her and was clueless about what steps to take to go to college. For this reason, she does not want students to ever feel as lost and helpless as she did. “I want to help students realize that they are capable of achieving their goals, despite their background.”
For Esquivel, the best part of being a counselor is seeing her students achieve their goals and gain access to opportunities they didn't believe were possible. “In my role, I'm able to connect with students and guide them in their decisions for life after college in a way that isn't typical in other districts. I learn my students' aspirations, desires and doubts and help them create a distinct plan for each of their needs. Having that level of support during a stressful process like applying to colleges, allows students to remain focused on their long-term goals.”
I want to help students realize that they are capable of achieving their goals, despite their background.”
Anais Zumaya, YES Prep North Forest Secondary
A YES Prep North Central Secondary alumna, Anais earned her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in health and biology. She returned to YES Prep four years ago and now serves as a college counselor at YES Prep North Forest Secondary, home of the Legends.
Zumaya became a college counselor because she witnessed firsthand the impact that pursuing a college education had on her life and she wanted to be a part of supporting other students to have access to higher education. For many families, this is their first time navigating these opportunities and Zumaya lends her knowledge and experience to support them in this transition. “My purpose in this role has been to instill confidence in students and serve as a resource for them to explore their post-secondary pathways in hopes of living a choice-filled life. It is very rewarding to be able to help students and families feel confident in their post-secondary pathways.”
As a YES Prep alumna, Zumaya shared that she has a unique opportunity of providing not only support for her students but also representation. “I believe it is valuable when forming connections with students and families for them to have the opportunity to ask questions in a setting where they feel understood and valued.”
It is very rewarding to be able to help students and families feel confident in their post-secondary pathways.”
Student Support Counselors
LaTasha Brown, YES Prep North Forest Secondary
A Houston native, LaTasha Brown attended Sam Houston State University where she majored in psychology and minored in Mass Communication. She then attended Texas Southern University where she earned her Master of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in Clinical Community. Brown joined YES Prep five years ago and currently serves as a middle school student support counselor at YES Prep North Forest Secondary, home of the Legends.
Brown’s passion for counseling began in high school while taking psychology and sociology courses. “As I grew in understanding human behavior, my desire transitioned from simply wanting to understand, to want to be of service to others through relationship building. My personal purpose as a counselor is to bridge the gap of understanding between others, so that stronger relationships can form.”
As a student support counselor, Brown helps connect students and families with basic need/foundational resources that allow students to have a more fulfilled educational experience. Through this support, Brown expressed that a stronger relationship is built between students and families and the campus community. “The best part of my job is providing students and families valuable resources. The gratitude they express brings me great joy. I appreciate YES Prep for partnering with the community to offer such resources.”
My personal purpose as a counselor is to bridge the gap of understanding between others, so that stronger relationships can form.”
Erin Groeteke, YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary
Originally from Corydon, Iowa, Erin Groeteke attended the University of Nebraska- Lincoln where she majored in education and minored in Spanish. She also holds a master’s degree in Counseling Education from the University of Houston. Groeteke joined YES Prep nine years ago and currently serves as a high school student support counselor at YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary, home of the Titans.
Groeteke became a counselor because she loves working with high school students. After several years of teaching, and after receiving her master's degree, she transitioned to her role as a student support counselor. The best part of her job, she stated, is her ability to support students outside of the classroom so that they'll reach their full potential when they are in school. “Seeing the joy on the students’ and families' faces when they can finally start to work on struggles or hardships is one of the best parts of my job. Hearing their stories and seeing how they achieve wins in their lives gives me so much hope for our future.”
Groeteke also added that being a student support counselor who is dedicated solely to the mental health of her students and families and providing resources means that she can dedicate her time to finding the right support for each one of them. “I'm not just handing the family a list so they can do it all on their own; I'm advocating for the families with our service providers because my time is dedicated to it. Our families know they have someone here to ensure they are supported.”
Our families know they have someone here to ensure they are supported.”
Thank you, Brianna Brown, LaTasha Brown, Erin Groeteke, Jassive Esquivel and Anais Zumaya, for everything you do to ensure our students have the resources and tools they need to succeed in and outside of the classroom.
YES Prep wishes you and all our college counselors and student support counselors a happy National School Counseling Week!