If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
DILLEY HIGH SCHOOL OFFERS NEW RESOURCES IN REIMAGINED COUNSELING CENTER
There was a time, only a generation ago, when the high school counselor’s office was the sort of place that few knew about and fewer ever visited.
For senior class students in a small South Texas town, the counseling center was an uninspiring place. There were pamphlets to take home to parents, a few posters of college buildings too far away to imagine ever visiting, and a bulletin board showing the dates of upcoming tests.
It was a time when students already had to have an idea in their minds of what they might want to do with their lives, before they ever set foot in the quiet suite of offices. Without that idea, they were adrift and might graduate with little hope of pursuing higher education.
Financial aid was a mystery; college majors and minors were a blur; and there was little in the way of help for those who might just enter the workforce right away.
Although they were all well trained – many of them former educators – and supplied with materials that helped them usher students into their education beyond high school, successive counselors were often stymied by restrictions that ran the gamut from department funding to connectivity with the outside world.
All that has begun to change in the 21st century high school, and Dilley has set an example this month with the official opening of its Go Center, a brightly decorated former classroom that serves less as a place of quiet reflection and more as a portal to life beyond high school.
The DHS Go Center is lined with pennants from colleges far and wide. Various work and information stations offer bulletins on earning potential, career options, courses of study, and financial aid application processes.
Vital to anyone seeing it for the first time, the Go Center offers a welcome that includes virtual tours of universities large and small on flat-screen monitors, and the cinderblock walls of the modern-day school building no longer restrict the students’ curiosity or imagination.
Dilley ISD’s administration, high school staff, board members, teachers, students and friends filled the Go Center on Wednesday evening, October 12, ostensibly for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a healthy dose of congratulation, but the occasion served as the fuse-lighting for what promises to be a multifaceted approach to helping students visualize a future beyond Dilley and the resources to seek it.
Funded with an allocation set aside by the Dilley ISD Board of Trustees over a year ago, the center typifies what high schools across the country must now provide for students who need more than a few glossy brochures.
The center’s connectivity and multiple resources are supported through partnerships with the University of the Incarnate Word and Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, although neither requires that students apply exclusively to them for undergraduate work. The universities have lent manpower and advisory support to enable the center to network with colleges and universities across the nation, to find the latest on apprenticeships and workforce training, to secure appointments with military recruiters, and above all to give Dilley’s students a broader and more accurate understanding of what lies ahead.
Other partners in the mission include the Texas Department of Health & Human Services and Texas A&M University Health, as well as the Centers for Disease Control.
“We had the vision, one and a half years ago, to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for our students and parents,” Dilley ISD Superintendent Dr. Emilio Castro said. “High school students can apply to colleges here, fill out their financial aid forms, apply for scholarships and grants, meet with recruiters or find out what their career options are… and I’m talking about them earning a real livable wage.
“We start with our students at the freshman grade,” the superintendent said of the Go Center resources. “We help them to examine all their options. This is where they come for support and guidance. We want them to understand that this is where they’ll find answers.”
Computers at the center are used not only for college and finance applications but also for what Dr. Castro describes as virtual job shadowing, in which teens can learn about careers in which they are interested and see for themselves what a job entails.
It’s a first for the school district.
“This creates a place for students and parents to feel welcome,” Dr. Castro said. “We take the work of Early College High School to the next level. Our students are graduating high school with up to two years’ college credit in advance. That’s a huge savings for their families. This center helps them achieve that, but it also gives them perspective. They will understand more about where they are going in life.
“Just the other day, I was visiting with Early College High School Dean Adriann Ramirez in here, and two students came in with real questions about college,” the superintendent said. “And I mean questions about college life itself.
“I think that demonstrates what our students have going on in their minds,” he added. “It’s not only about where to apply and what to study… I think it shows that students have real concerns, questions, uncertainties about life beyond high school. This is where they come for reassurance, confidence, and answers.
“In this Go Center, we look at the whole child,” Castro said.
“We have a lot more students interested in college and career opportunities today than ever before,” DHS Principal Mark Tribett said. “A third of our freshmen are in dual-credit courses. We are looking at a higher percentage every year, of seniors having college credit when they graduate.”
Early College High School liaison Cruz Mata said he believes the center’s connectivity to the outside world gives new dimension to students’ perspectives of their futures.
“Our purpose as educators is to remove the roadblocks,” the liaison said. “I’m from a small town. I didn’t understand the system, when I was a student. I’m now working on my doctorate. We are here to promote, educate, encourage our students to move on. Just because we are from a small town doesn’t mean they can’t go on.”
“We love the excitement,” Dean Ramirez said of the center’s appeal to the student population. “Our students want to know what it’s all about. The board members believed in us and helped make this happen.”
Representing health care professions through the University of the Incarnate Word, Dr. Heather Barton-Weston said she believes partnerships between colleges and high schools have been challenging, but in Dilley’s case the communication has been strong.
“Your willingness to work with us has been incredible,” the UIW assistant professor said. “As the first generation in my Hispanic family to go to university, I take great pride in saying that if I can do it, anyone can.
“What we do is help the students get through the deep ocean that is college,” Dr. Barton-Weston added, regarding follow-up counseling and guidance once students reach university. “We want the students to know that there are people behind them, supporting them. We give the students constant support. Knowing the ins and outs of the institution and the networking is vital to the students, including knowing who to talk to on campus, and where to go to get help.”
Both the Dilley ISD superintendent and high school principal expect the Go Center to reach the middle school as well, extending resources and guidance to students as early as seventh grade.
“We can do this right,” Supt. Castro said. “We can do this better for our kids.”