Counselor Spotlights

Ellen Okada
Ellen Okada Expands Students’ Horizons

Holtville High School helps students in this rural community in southern California to explore the best options for their future beyond high school. The school’s faculty is deeply committed to providing a safe, challenging, and inventive learning environment.

The Challenge

As an educator for more than 30 years, Holtville High School Counselor Ellen Okada loves helping students on the path to their dream—whether it’s in college or a career or both. Yet she had often seen students unnecessarily rule out the idea of a four-year university due to financial concerns. “Many students assume that a four-year university will be too expensive, and settle for a community college,” said Okada. “It’s important for them to really understand their options and the actual costs. That’s why we encourage them to do their college research early.”

The Solution

Okada works closely with more than 350 students, having serious discussions about the value of college, holding test prep workshops, and advising them on rigorous courses to take to prepare for college.

This year, she offered something new: She invited students to participate in an online college fair at CollegeWeekLive. “I wanted our AVID students to have personal time with colleges as part of their college/career research,” Okada said. “The more exposure students have, the more likely they will want to attend a four-year university.”

Before the fair, Okada helped her students prepare by reviewing a lesson plan of 100 top questions to ask an admissions counselor. During the online college fair, students had the opportunity to ask questions to counselors from the University of California at Riverside, University of California at Santa Barbara, and Marymount California University. During the session, they gained firsthand insight into each university’s degree programs, campus life, and more.

The Results

“The online college fair was simple to organize and the experience was wonderful for our students,” Okada said. “They were very focused about gathering information and sharing it with one another. The next day they were asking to do it all over again!”

Based on the positive feedback about the event, the school plans to host one new online college fair each quarter, and to expand this to their ninth and tenth grade honor students.