An Ingenuity teacher helps a student conduct career research on Naviance.

By Sarah Beauchemin

In underrepresented populations, school counselors play a vital role in student success. Students have unique work and lifestyle challenges and may also deal with significant housing and financial instability. 

School counselors at Ingenuity Charter School, a hybrid-learning middle and high school that gives San Diego’s underrepresented students access to high-quality education, are committed to helping their students be successful and resilient. 

Identifying factors that hold students back

In order for Ingenuity counselors to understand the specific factors that prevent students from succeeding, students must attend regular counseling meetings and appointments. 

“I meet with groups of students at each of our resource centers on a monthly basis for college- and career-oriented workshops and discussions,” said Stephen Shilling, instructional counselor at Ingenuity. 

“We also meet with individual students in any grade on an as-needed basis, and with seniors approaching graduation,” he said. 

After numerous counseling sessions, Ingenuity counselors feel they have a good handle on what their students need help with the most: college and career planning, and coping with emotional and stress-related issues. 

“This includes anything from students’ emotional or physical health, to the stress of helping provide financial support for their family,” said Charity Harang, Ingenuity instructor and counselor. 

“Underserved students struggle the most in having a stable living environment,” she said. “This could mean that they are sharing a home with other family members, and/or the threat of losing their housing is looming at all times. Dealing with this stress is difficult and certainly affects their school performance.”

Working through challenges to success

Ingenuity’s counselors use two strategies to get students adequately prepared for college and ready for a career: technology and first-hand exposure. 

“We have all our students use Naviance, a comprehensive college- and career-planning software tool, to complete game plans, personal-interest inventories and career research,” said Shilling. “This gives them a strong career idea as well as an actionable plan and pathway to get there.” 

Shilling notices that students’ confidence is boosted considerably after completing their plans in Naviance. 

“After they embrace this process, they usually realize they can actually go after their dreams and really be somebody,” he said. “That is why my most common advice to my students is to spend the time to figure out where their interests and skills lie. Then, together, we identify local colleges or other alternative programs that offer training toward their career of choice.”

As students move through their college and career planning in Naviance, counselors help them gain even more insight by giving them the first-hand exposure to college programs and careers they may be considering. 

“We have various field trips and speakers throughout the school year to help our students connect with future opportunities,” said Harang. “For example, we visit SDSU, several community colleges and some trade schools. We have also had representatives from colleges, as well as the military, present information to our students.”

Finally, Ingenuity partners with The O’Farrell Charter School for their annual Career Day every spring. Career Day features around 25 different careers ranging from cutting-edge tech careers to more traditional occupations. Presenters are diverse in terms of age, gender and race so that students may see a broad representation. 

“The focus is to help our students know what exactly is available to them after they graduate high school,” said Harang. 

The rewards of being an Ingenuity counselor are plentiful too. 

“Personally, the most rewarding part of being a counselor at Ingenuity is helping students who may not have completed school otherwise,” said Harang. “Ingenuity is often a last chance for many of our students. We are extremely proud of them when they achieve their goals of finishing school.” 

[call_to_action color=” button_text=’Learn More’ button_url=’’]Please call (619) 262-2046 or go to our website for more information about how Ingenuity can assist your family.[/call_to_action]

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