Cerritos’ Whitney High School (WHS) handles itself a bit differently than other public schools: the class sizes are smaller, the education level is similar to college, and students can only attend if they are accepted based on their previous academic performance. WHS heavily emphasizes getting into college and tries its best to offer help with applying and preparing.
One of the school’s goals is to “prepare academically proficient students for entrance to and success at their best-match colleges or universities.”
Sasha Leonardo, a college counselor at WHS, told JSR, “Whitney does an excellent job of introducing the topic of college… starting as early as the 7th grade. The administrative team and the counseling team work closely to provide workshops to both students and parents that provide beneficial information about the college going process that are grade-level appropriate.”
Leonardo continued, “Such topics include building a college list, [seeking] financial aid, and creating a winning essay. Whitney also has a mentor program in place that was established in 2014. This program pairs students with a faculty mentor to guide them throughout the sophomore, junior and senior year. Our goal is to make sure that all students feel supported academically, personally, and also during the college and career planning process.”
According to Leonardo, “Students have been visiting the College and Career Center as early as 7am until the close of the school day. The class of 2016 had the option of taking… an intensive two-week program that covers everything from the application, to the essays, to the letters of recommendation. We even had admissions directors from USC as well as UCLA to go over their application process and worked with students in identifying competitive personal statements.”
Many WHS seniors are constantly working to make their applications look great. While keeping up with academics and extracurricular activities, these seniors also carefully look for possible scholarships and internships. It may all seem like a lot, but students appreciate the school’s efforts to help them succeed.
Liana Chie, a senior at WHS, told JSR, “It’s definitely been a grueling process and forces me to use a lot of time from regular school work in order to complete the apps on time, but the staff working with seniors at Whitney… are working to make the jobs less stressful… and overall make it a smoother process by leaving themselves free whenever possible for us to walk in and ask questions.”
The small class sizes at WHS allow counselors to more easily have one-on-one talks with students. They try to find out the specific interests of each individual in the class of 2016, which enables them to recommend colleges. When helping with personal statements, they try to discover stories the students can tell and encourage unique topics.
“The emotions are all over the map,” said Leonardo about the students she assists. “Some students are nervous and anxious. Other students are excited and confident. Some students change from day to day depending on the circumstance. But… our staff is here to support our students no matter the emotions they experience during the college application process.”
In addition to helping students get into college, the school also helps students adjust to college-level work.
“Honestly I kind of winged my way through high school and didn’t think much about college until senior year. But Whitney helped me a lot. It really did prepare me for college-level work and helped make the transition a lot simpler,” commented Priyanka Kotak, a 2012 WHS alumna who now attends CSULB.