PHS counselor gets College Board kudos

first_img Permian High School’s Jennifer Perkins is the college and career advisor. As a high school senior in Iraan, Jennifer Perkins was told she was not college material. But ironically, she is now the Permian High School college and career advisor. And recently, the College Board Counselor Recognition Program recognized Perkins. The College Board website said it “is a small way to honor the innovative middle and high school counselors who go the extra mile to expand opportunity for students — and who are seeing results.” Having graduated in a class of about 28 students in Iraan, Perkins said college wasn’t really promoted at all. Her parents had finished high school and attended community college, but Perkins didn’t know the application process. Perkins moved to Midland after high school. Some friends were going to Midland College, so Perkins decided to follow suit. “… I went and I never stopped,” Perkins said. “That’s the thing about me, too. I know when I start something, I finish it and I’m really dedicated to that so it’s really ironic that I sit in a college career advising role when I was told that I was not college material.” Because of her experience, Perkins can relate to the students she sees every day. “The mentality that you see around this area in specific is they don’t think they can (go to college) and then they don’t think that they can afford it and they don’t understand the resources and the processing and things like that. My higher level students with parents that had educations … I don’t have to work with them as much as my lower-income families. I enjoy working with the ones that don’t know. I tell them start out at Odessa College, take some classes. That’s exactly what I did,” Perkins said. Finishing her eighth year at PHS, Perkins sees an average of 2,000 to 2,500 students annually. About 800 students a year on average graduate from Permian every year and about 21 percent of those leave for college, so most stay home. Perkins earned two bachelor’s degrees from University of Texas Permian Basin — one in mass communication and the other in speech. She also took a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on student development and leadership in higher education from Angelo State University. She had been working as an admissions counselor at Angelo State before taking the job at PHS. Her husband at the time had been transferred to the Odessa-Midland area. She has two daughters, one 15, who attends Permian, and one who is 9, who attends Fasken Elementary School in Midland. “It’s an honor,” Perkins said of receiving the College Board recognition. “I do a lot for the College Board. I’m the coordinator for PSAT/SAT testing. I do all the special accommodations for students that need testing accommodations. I do all the testing reporting. I picked up Accuplacer (a college placement test) this year, which is another part of College Board …” Accuplacer also ties in with TSI, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, a program which determines the appropriate level of college course work for an incoming student, the website said. She also handles students in Texas Scholars and those taking dual credit courses. College Board, Perkins said, is also a great tool for students seeking scholarships and there is a feature called BigFuture that students can use to choose a school based on what they want to major in. “I sit on a College Board regional panel just to give them our feedback and insight of what they could be doing better to help us promote college and career readiness,” Perkins said. She said using College Board comes with many other benefits that promote college and career readiness. “They’re partnering with Khan Academy, which is an SAT prep where students can get access to math prep and English and writing and things like that at grade levels all the way down to the third grade … and it’s free,” Perkins said. She added that a lot of teachers at Permian use Khan Academy in their curriculum. A PSAT boot camp is scheduled for July 8 and July 9 and July 10 and July 11. The cost is $25 and it will be held in room 128 at Gregory Williams Hall on the Odessa College campus. “We’re trying really hard to promote that as we move forward with PSAT and SAT testing and now TSI testing that is our segue into producing National Merit students. National Merit is a big thing,” Perkins said. “… Another thing is the community doesn’t realize the importance of taking that test and performing well on that test because it’s huge scholarship opportunity for students that do perform well on the test,” Perkins added. “I understand the value of getting that preparation because I’ve seen where 20 to 40 points’ increase is the difference between a $24,000 scholarship and a $48,000 scholarship, so and we tell students that all the time. … Anything …1250 or higher, you’ll get some sort of academic scholarship.” To help with the college-going culture, Perkins said Permian recently worked with Odessa College to get students registered for fall classes. “Just because you do all this work getting them into college … they don’t matriculate into college, so there’s a gap right there,” Perkins said. “This year, I worked with Tim Clark (executive director of enrollment services at OC), and their whole enrollment team. I want to see these kids matriculate into college. They leave here and then there’s a gap. They don’t know to go to OC, UTPB, or go to orientation, or maybe they’re scared to do that. … I think we ended up registering 100 seniors for fall classes, so they’re already in,” Perkins said. Like many educators, Perkins said she isn’t in her job for the money. “I do it because I love the kids and I want to see them successful,” Perkins said. Over the years, she has accumulated many photos and invitations to graduation ceremonies. “… So that is my reward right there. I enjoy seeing these kids succeed. And even those that weren’t that great in high school, I’ve had some that have already graduated with master’s degrees that you’d think that when they were here in high school that there would be (a) slim chance,” Perkins added. She said she’s had students become nurses, teachers, into the medical field and graduate from military academies. “That’s why you do it is for them and it’s fun to watch them grow. They’re becoming adults and they’re getting married and graduating. There’s a couple of students that teach for us here that I helped get into college. To see them as my colleagues is even more rewarding,” Perkins said. Ector County ISD Director of Advanced Academic Services Omega Loera works with Perkins a lot and nominated her for the College Board recognition. “Jennifer is just fabulous. When this presented itself, the first person that came to mind was Jennifer. I really feel like she deserves it and I’m really glad that they gave her this honor. She works tirelessly to get kids ready for college,” Loera said. She added that Perkins also works to train teachers and get the word out to parents. PHS Principal Danny Gex pointed out the many things Perkins is responsible for and said students often just want to talk to her. “She’s so informed and so friendly that we’re having to move her to a new office and a bigger office and we’re going to call it a college go center. It will be with our CTE (career and technical education) because not everybody is on the pathway to go to college. We’ll pair her up with Rico Enriquez,” Gex said. There will also be a place for representatives to talk to students, leave information and a line of laptops that can be used for scholarship information, for example, he said. “She’s very deserving of whatever accolades they give her. She certainly has earned them and I can attest to it because my daughter is doing dual credit. When the kids come home and they say something positive about the teacher or somebody like that, that’s always good to hear,” Gex said. 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