Above and Beyond a College Counselor and Teacher
All Southwestern Academy graduates are accepted to colleges. How is this done? What is the story? Dr. Peter Montes de Oca (college counselor at Southwestern Academy) says, “It is due to the work we do prior to the college application. I am able to spend time with the students, building relationships and finding out about their interests and abilities. This way I can help each individual student apply to the most appropriate college.”
Applying to college is not a simple process, and Dr. Montes de Oca realizes this. He graduated from UCLA with a Ph.D in Learning and Human Behavior, so he is aware of the effort it takes for a student to obtain his/her college dream.
“Spending time making real connections with students, while also building relationships with universities are keys to successful admissions. Students are more than students to me. They are like family.” This type of thinking has elevated Southwestern’s college counseling program. Students know they can confide in Montes de Oca, and that he is working in their best interest.
Dedicating time to students in the classroom as a teacher, on the sports field as a baseball coach, and finally in the counseling center as a mentor, allows Montes de Oca to establish trust with students.
Leo Vlasov, a senior student from Russia, says, “Dr. Montes de Oca, spent time getting to know what I wanted to concentrate on in college. For me, the location of the university, and a very specific major were most important. Dr. Montes de Oca, helped me narrow my focus.” Students feel comfortable sharing their career goal with Montes de Oca.
Finding the right fit and the best school for each student takes work. Montes de Oca adds, “Southwestern Academy students tend to do better in smaller private universities, though many have been successful at larger schools like UCLA, and Boston University.”
The planning process involves putting an itinerary plan into action. This begins in May, starting with a list of all current 11th and 12th-grade students. Montes de Oca helps students research colleges as much as possible online. He plans college campus visits, and organizes an annual mini- college fair (25 schools) on Southwestern Academy’s campus. He also helps students write personal statements prior to the school year, and by September the essays and personal statements are revised and ready for submission.
This past May, Dr. Montes de Oca was nominated for “Inspirational Latino in USA” by Viacom-MTV Tr3s-LDC (Latino Donor Collaborative) for his work in the community. In August, he was chosen to represent the category of Education as an inspirational Latino. He participated in filming of a commercial that will air on MTV over 20 times a day. The award is recognition for Montes de Oca’s work operating an Orphanage in Mexico, providing living wages and benefits to its employees, providing materials and instruments for an Art institute, and funding both brick and mortar and mobile clinics that offer services such as a mental/physical/dental/psych help to patients.
Dr. Montes de Oca’s story is far from over. He will continue his work outside of the country, but also in the United States. Southwestern is fortunate to have him on staff, helping mentor students and model the ideals of service. It’s good to have this devoted counselor helping students find their next educational step, where they belong.
Southwestern Academy, 2800 Monterey Rd., San Marino, (626) 799-5010 or visit www.southwesternacademy.edu.