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Q & A with Casey Rowley with Neelam Savla interviewing on behalf of WACAC

Over the next few months, we hope you have the opportunity to meet the dedicated professionals who make up WACAC through out WACAC Member Spotlight Series. This week we’d like to introduce you to Casey Rowley, College and Career Counselor at Malibu High School.

WACAC: How long have you been working in the counseling field? How has your career path led you to your current work as the College and Career Counselor at Malibu High School?

Casey Rowley (CR): I love sharing this story with my students because it helps them understand that pathways can be unexpected and what you major in undergrad doesn’t necessarily determine the rest of your life. I have been in the counseling profession for three years. It is a profession that has allowed me to feel the impact of the work I do in such a positive way. What led me into counseling was actually teaching. Teaching pre-kindergarten. When I was in the classroom with little ones I quickly fell in love with education, but I didn’t know what impact I wanted to make beyond the classroom. I decided to meet with my high school counselor for coffee and came to the realization I wanted to further my education. Interestingly enough, my first position as a school counselor was at my alma mater, Valencia High School. I gained considerable experience and continued my career at Malibu High School as a College Counselor. Malibu has allowed me to be in a unique setting where I can focus my counseling skills in a specific way. As a College Counselor I am able to really get to know my students and pull resources from various outlets. From preschool to high school it has been a journey that only continues to allow me to grow in so many positive directions.

WACAC: Tell us more about Malibu High School. What makes this school unique? Describe your interaction with the students.

CR: Malibu High School is the first school where I have been able to specialize in a specific area of counseling. At Malibu I get to be a part of the school counseling team, but specialize as a College Counselor, allowing me to be accessible to my students and meet their various needs. It is a small campus filled with community, support and involved stakeholders, something we are very fortunate to have. Interacting with students is by far my favorite part of the job. I get to implement lesson plans in the classroom and then meet individually on a deeper level. I work with grades nine through twelve in group settings and workshops, night events and then individually as juniors and seniors. I meet with families to get a larger picture and strive to meet the diverse needs of each student.

WACAC: What is the value of WACAC in your career and in all aspects of your life?

CR: My first experience with WACAC was at a local meeting at my first NACAC conference. I literally tried to fit in as much as I could, running the 5k, meeting local counselors, attending sessions and social hours. WACAC has made the larger organization smaller. It has allowed me to make friendships, ask for guidance, collaborate with others and continued to challenge me. Volunteering in small roles, like directing attendees to sessions may seem so little, but I realize it’s not what you do that matters. It’s the small effort that continues your relationships. When I am the only College Counselor at Malibu, WACAC has become my counseling team.

WACAC: What advice would you give to others who are just starting out in the college counseling field?

CR: As someone who is relatively new to the College Counseling field myself, I highly encourage connecting with colleagues. And not just connecting with colleagues within your school but connecting district-wide, state-wide and nationally. The second is flexibility. You have an idea of your timeline for the school year, the programming that takes place, but you have little idea about everything in between. Take control of the things you can change and embrace the things you cannot. Our job is a human one. We are working with families, students and our peers throughout the educational field. All of those working pieces will bring different personalities, unique challenges and excited prospects. So in essence…hold on.

WACAC: Who has impacted you most in your career and how?

CR: There are many figures throughout the course of my career who have impacted me immensely. My colleagues at my first job in Valencia were a guiding light and a sounding board. I sought guidance in tricky situations and had support when it was needed support, it set a strong foundation for me. I have to give the biggest shout out to AhYoung Chi, Dean of College Admissions at Beverly Hills High School. She helped me see the value and importance of working outside of the counseling office. Going to conferences, getting involved and having lunch with your peers to bounce around ideas, share best practices and just have fun. She has helped me see that this isn’t just a career, it’s a small community where we all can have a positive impact on each other.

WACAC: What approaches do you use when helping students find their best “college fit”?

CR: College fit was something I never considered when applying for colleges as a senior. I feel the need to consider “fit” in your college options is so impertinent. When I’m working with students I’m working to get them to explore ideas about college before attaching a name. One activity I have found extremely useful is having students draw their own college on a piece of paper. A bird’s-eye view of what it would look like. I guide them through questions like; what resources or activities are available in the student center? What type of classes are offered, how many students are sitting in each class? When you walk outside what is there, buildings, mountains, a shuttle bus taking you to the city? It gets students to see items that they have deemed important before even searching actual colleges. I will continue that conversation from the classroom to when I meet with them individually as a junior and senior. Self-exploration and not being afraid to explore ideas rarely considered are two big ideas I think are really important.

WACAC: What are you passionate about outside of your career?

CR: I feel like I’m filling out the activities sheet of a college application! My passions always include time with family members, being active in fun ways (running, hiking, camping, trying new random gym classes like boxing or cardio barre) and just trying new things in general. I had a professor in grad school who consistently pressed upon the idea of self-care. It’s something I realize is so important for our students and for us!

WACAC: What would you do during your ideal free weekend?

CR: My ideal weekend would include two things: Something outdoors and something with my friends. A small hike (not trying to break any records here!), lunch, shopping and laughing. After being so organized at work and being pretty tied to a planner and a calendar the idea of a weekend with little concrete plans and just time is pretty heavenly. The school year flies by and it’s the weekend that helps me reground and come back on Monday with a clear mind. Self-care!