The transition from middle school to high school often stirs up many emotions for adolescents, ranging from excitement and anticipation to fear and anxiety. For sixteen-year-old Alondra, those feelings lasted well beyond the first few weeks of ninth grade. Now in a giant new school and a sea of strangers, Alondra felt small and alone. Quiet and reserved, she struggled to make friends with other students and often recoiled in her seat when called upon to participate in class. It wasn’t long before her grades and attendance started to slip.
Freshman year has long been considered a “make or break” year, as it’s essential in deciding whether a student drops out or stays in. Research shows that failing just one course in the ninth grade decreases the likelihood of graduating by 30 percent. But when students are supported, those statistics get shattered.
Fortunately, Karina, a Denver Kids Educational Counselor, was there to support Alondra through this tough passage. Karina helped demystify many of the procedural obstacles—like understanding her daily schedule, school rules, finding her classes, following the bell schedule — Alondra was immediately experiencing. Together, they also worked on establishing positive relationships with her new high school teachers so that Alondra felt more comfortable in class. Karina also helped Alondra become aware of the many extracurricular activities available to her and how to get involved.
As Karina guided Alondra in developing self-confidence and self-advocacy skills, Alondra started to ask for help when she needed it. Gaining these foundational social and emotional skills unlocked a world of new opportunities for Alondra. In time, her grades and outlook began to improve. By tenth grade, Alondra tried out for—and made—the volleyball team, and even joined student council to help improve the overall student experience at North High School. In her own words, Alondra “found her voice.”
Now a senior, Alondra is currently taking honors-level classes and thriving. She has enrolled in CEC Early College where, starting next summer, she will begin completing college-level Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) coursework to prepare for her lifelong dream of becoming a registered nurse. With her degree, her goal is to serve the Latino community and populations who lack access to healthcare.
When she walks across the stage to accept her diploma in May 2019, Alondra will be the first of her siblings to graduate from High School and the first in her family to go to college.