College and Career Center: Coordinating futures and impacting lives
September 28, 2020
College and Career Center Coordinator Andrea Gorman has been a bright light at Los Altos High School for the last five years. When Gorman’s grandson was born last summer, he became the light of her life. Realizing that she needed to make more time for family in her life, Gorman has transitioned to working at the center part-time.
“In a word, I feel ‘bittersweet,’ which is typically how our seniors feel when they are graduating from LAHS,” Gorman said. “On the one hand, I feel sad that I will not be on campus every day helping students. On the other hand, I am looking forward to spending time with my son, his wife and my grandson John.”
Inspired by her own high school counselor, Gorman’s goal as a coordinator was always to create a welcoming place for students to explore their plans beyond high school. She enjoyed guiding her students as they discovered their own passions and forged their distinctive paths.
“I am a first-generation college student, and my high school counselor was so patient and helpful to me,” Gorman said. “I always wanted to be able to give all of our students the same kind of support that I received when I was in high school. In my position, it was so fulfilling to help a student make a decision about their future.”
For many graduated upperclassmen such as Elena Atluri, ’20, Gorman was their go-to for all types of upper education advice or just to chat.
“The College And Career Center is an amazing resource for all students—from being able to check out test prep books that I otherwise would not have been able to afford, to the numerous college visits, to being able to talk with Ms. Gorman about anything,” Atluri said. “In a high-pressure environment to get into a top school, Ms. Gorman helped me internalize that it didn’t matter where I ended up going to college. I remember telling Ms. Gorman about my first college acceptance and her happiness for me really made my day.”
Even though Ms. Gorman greatly impacted the lives of the students she worked with, she was also deeply touched by the personal connections she formed with them during the process.
“I was honored to be there every day to support and guide students as they learned about themselves, their skills and interests,” Gorman said. “Hopefully I was able to spread some kindness and make your day a little brighter. Thank you very much for being a part of my life.”
New College and Career Center Coordinator Laura Duran has stepped into the school year with fresh ideas and a growth mindset. Rather than seeing each blip in distance learning as another obstacle to overcome, Duran is determined to find the unprecedented opportunities buried within the difficulties.
Now, despite college representatives being unable to visit LAHS and give talks in-person, Duran recognized that the resources are now available to a greater portion of the student body.
“There are so many colleges that have signed up on Naviance to give talks that have never visited Los Altos before, which allows for a broader access point for our community,” Duran said. “Parents can just have their headphones on while cooking dinner, and they can still get all the information they need.”
Duran started off distance learning with the understanding that her potential mistakes are natural to the learning curve of taking on a new position, especially during the pandemic. Due to this perspective, she is able to stay positive while also thinking critically as she adjusts her approach throughout the school year.
“The switch to online learning is humbling, to say the least,” Duran said. “This situation has forced everyone to take a step back and really think about what we are trying to do with education. What parts of education are really essential? How do we meet those essential components in a virtual world?”
Although online education is challenging to adjust to, she plans to use her previous experience working at an EdTech startup, a competitor of Naviance, to help make this transition as smooth as possible.
Having worked as a school counselor for ten years, Duran is a true people-person. She initially dreamed of going into politics during high school and college, and a certain internship that she took on just added to her love for making human connections. The program encouraged students to get involved in the political field, and Duran specifically registered college-age students to vote before graduation.
“During that time I realized I could spend my whole life fighting for something that I believed in to the bone and that there would be someone out there fighting for the exact opposite thing,” Duran said. “Instead of going down the politics route, I realized that I wanted to work with people where they’re at. Now my passion is guiding students to make their next choice, whatever that looks like, and making sure they feel really confident about their options.”
Since Duran is working with her life’s purpose at heart, it isn’t so hard for her to see the silver linings within these unpredictable times. She hopes her students will be able to do the same.
“I know that this is a really stressful time for everyone, and there are so many unknowns with college admissions and life in general,” Duran said. “But maybe you are appreciating the things that you have lost during this time so much more.”