Meet Reinaldo De Jesus, Jordan High School college & career counselor and SAT/PSAT/AP/SST coordinator. Recently, we talked with him about everything he does to help students make the most educated decisions about college and their futures. Read below.
In October, we kick off college season. It’s a time when students start researching schools, dig into the process of applying for admission and financial aid, and begin the journey to better understand what they might like to do for a career–whether they decide to go to college or go directly into the workforce after high school graduation.
For Jordan High School’s College & Career Counselor Reinaldo De Jesus, it’s one of the busiest times of the year. Over the past few weeks, he’s had an action-packed schedule–one that’s not slowing down anytime soon.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is bring as many college reps as possible in so that the kids can be well-informed before they apply to any schools,” he says. Jordan has hosted several representatives from the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) schools over the past few weeks as well as the Los Angeles Trade Technical College. The school also organized a College Wellness Resources Fair, to combine students being able to talk with college representatives with getting information for managing their mental health during this time.
De Jesus has also brought students to schools through a series of field trips. In addition to an upcoming trip to UC Santa Barbara, there’s also one to Cal State Northridge planned, as he wants to ensure his students get information on California State University’s Educational Opportunity Program. This program provides admission, academic, and financial support services to the state’s historically-underserved students.
He also provides opportunities to head to more far-flung destinations. In late October, De Jesus and another chaperone traveled with eighteen Jordan High School students to tour five HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). Students from two other Partnership high schools–Mendez High School and Santee Educational Complex were also part of the same trip. This was Jordan’s first HBCU trip, and De Jesus credits Santee’s Assistant Principal Kymbereley Garrett and Morgan Blue, the Partnership’s College Success Advisor, for guiding him through how to make the trip a reality for his students. “The trip was great, and the students were able to see each school’s campus, culture, and environment,” he says. “I genuinely believe a trip like this changed the lives of our students and gave them a perspective they would never be able to get otherwise. By committing to more college tours, we’re allowing students to make school decisions based on experiences–not names.”
Now that the HBCU trip is over, the next part of De Jesus’ work begins–the focus on FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) and college applications. He relies on the school’s resource partners to help make sure students are being kept on track. “Every partner that has students in their rosters, they’re basically helping with their college applications,” he says. Because with 150 seniors at Jordan, partnering with others helps ensure all students complete their applications. “Many of these kids are first-generation college students, and sometimes, all they need is access to information,” De Jesus says. “They don’t want to be too far away from their family. They hear a lot about the cost of student loans.” The hands-on approach with the resource partners gives students the accountability and encouragement they need to follow through on their applications.
De Jesus also says that even though this is a busy college “season” for Jordan, students’ college-going culture starts way before the eleventh grade. The school’s Early Start College Program gives students the opportunity to take college classes beginning in ninth grade. All the classes they take are transferable to CSU or UC schools. “Our goal is to expose them to what taking college classes is like, and our ultimate goal is to get them to finish as much of their first two years of college as they can,” he says.
Looking into the future, De Jesus has other goals for the College & Career Center at Jordan. “I want to bring back a College Awareness class for ninth and eleventh grades,” he says. The initial course would introduce students to the options they have, with the course repeated in the second semester of their eleventh-grade year. “That way, we’re preparing our students for the college application process,” he says.
For now, De Jesus is concentrating on the near future, which includes making sure students and their families have the information they need to complete their FAFSA forms. Jordan’s college center partners with the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) to bring financial experts directly to those who need them. “We have about 6-7 FAFSA workshops planned,” he says. “That’s my focus.”