Next to the computer on Frances Hernandez’ desk, there’s a brand new “desk set.” The computer, which contains information and documentation about some 250 Watchung Hills Regional High School students, is an indispensable tool for the guidance counselor; the shiny, personalized desk set is a token of how well the counselor does what she does.
On Oct. 1st, the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions Office had the pleasure of acknowledging Hernandez as a recipient of the 2012 Yale Educator Award, a program that “recognizes outstanding educators from around the world who support and inspire their students to perform at high levels and to achieve excellence,” according to the donors.
This year, from among 274 nominees who represent 33 states and 12 countries, only 50 high school teachers and 40 counselors were selected to receive the Yale Awards The nominations were reviewed by a committee of Yale admissions officers, who then sent the distinctive desk sets and congratulatory letters to the awardees and notification to their administrators.
It was a way, said the Yale Admissions Office, of thanking these, and all educators, for their ongoing efforts in motivating and supporting their students.
Hernandez, nominated by a Hills graduate who is now in Yale’s freshman class, has been a counselor at the school for seven years. A resident of Bridgewater, she’s the mother of a one-year-old, and a graduate of Gettysburg College, with a master’s degree in guidance from Centenary College in Hackettstown.
Ideally, Hernandez sees each of her 250 assigned students at least twice a year. At a high school such as Watchung Hills, where there is a large percentage of students who plan to go forward with their education, much of her counseling time is devoted to college-related concerns: high school courses to choose; abilities and talents to develop; opportunities for scholarships.
“It’s a process of self-discovery," she said. "I try to guide them to the right answers, some of which they already know.”
Ninety percent of her counselees will eventually select four-year schools; 17 percent will begin at two-year institutions and then transfer.
"The college selection race has too much competition associated with it,” Hernandez muses. “Not everyone can go to an Ivy League college. I try to encourage them to begin at a community college—a good place to start.'
The Yale Admissions Office attributes “the exceptional quality of the Yale student body to educators like these, who shape their students long before they attend Yale and thanks these educators for their ongoing efforts in motivating and supporting their students.”
Soon, as the college application season gets into full swing, Hernandez will have ample opportunity to put her new desk set to use.