Counselor Who Makes a Difference for Students’ Success

November 6, 2013

It is 9:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning in late May at North Hill’s James Monroe High School.  The high school’s college counselor Neena Agnihotri announces through the public address (PA) system that representatives from two local colleges are available in the college office to aid seniors who will be attending one of the respective colleges this fall.

Before she can finish her announcement, dozens of students enter the college office to use the available resources. They begin to look around and crowd around the computers to await a turn with a representative.

“I had to fight and beg to establish the connections with college and university representatives so they can come to James Monroe and aid our students,” said Agnihotri.

Her purpose in creating positive relationships with local colleges and universities is to ensure that her students will be comfortable with the idea of attending and succeeding at a higher education institution.  “If the student does not have a contact for the college or university s/he is considering then the student will not feel like s/he can do it,” said Agnihotri.

One relationship Agnihotri created for James Monroe is with California State University, Northridge’s Building Connections for Success (BCFS) program.

Through the program, trained BCFS high school outreach ambassadors are sent to a local high school to present materials on various types of resources available to high school students.  The ambassadors establish relationships with the high school students in a classroom setting.  They are available to high school students to answer questions regarding the financial options, scholarships, grants and benefits that develop when an individual earns a degree from a college or university.

Usually, the ambassadors present to solely junior and senior level students.  However, Agnihotri decided that with a little tailoring the presentation would be greatly beneficial to freshman and sophomore students.

She feels that if students were presented information regarding the higher education process earlier in their high school education then perhaps the students will feel attaining a higher education degree is more possible.

Agnihotri said she received positive comments about the presentations from students and teachers.  She noticed students were paying attention and not “chitchatting”.

“The students were engaged in the presentation because it was meaningful and valuable to them,” she said.

Agnihotri’s goal for each of her students as their graduation date approaches is to complete a FAFSA application whether or not they believe they will be attending a higher education institution.  She wants the students prepared with the knowledge that there are resources available to help them achieve a higher education degree.

She seeks to make the higher education processes appear more possible to complete.  She wants her students to feel that they are worthy and can succeed.  With state budget cuts in place, she continues to search for free services and resources available for students, which is one reason she appreciates the BCFS high school ambassador program.

BCFS Mentorship Coordinator Adriana Garcia recognizes the strong and determined nature Agnihotri possesses for the students of James Monroe High School.  “She is a counselor who exceeds expectations when it concerns matters for her students’ success and it is done in a welcoming environment,” said Garcia.

Agnihotri says the best part of being a college counselor at James Monroe High School is when students enter her office and inform her that s/he applied to a higher education institution and was accepted.  It makes her wake up in the morning ready to find more resources that will help more students.

“Every student’s success is important.  Every aid made available for one student is done for the next student,” said Agnihotri. “Each student is valued and able to be successful.”

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