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BHS counselor named High School Counselor of the Year

BONSALL – On Friday, March 22, the entire faculty, staff, and student body of Bonsall High School conspired to surprise their beloved high school counselor, Eryn Barker (nee Kjelland).

Barker was told she had a meeting regarding the Bonsall High School Early College Program which she launched in partnership with Palomar College's Fallbrook campus. In reality, Barker was being presented with the High School Counselor of the Year Award given by the San Diego County Department of Education.

Top administration from both the County Office of Education and Bonsall Unified, as well as Principal Daniel Smuts, were on hand to present Barker with the award. Superintendent Clevenger said, "At BUSD, we believe belonging is a priority in every classroom. Mrs. Barker epitomizes this value each day in her work with our students. She opens doors for new possibilities in their lives and helps them see their potential and that's amazing."

Tanya Bulette, San Diego County Office of Education School Counseling Coordinator, presented Barker with the recognition praising her dedication to supporting students in achieving their goals beyond high school. "It is a tremendous honor to be recognized on the county level for the work I've done at Bonsall High School, especially with our underrepresented students," said Barker.

Originally from Wisconsin, Barker was inspired to go into counseling after an adverse experience with her own high school counselor. Even though she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps and attend the University of Wisconsin, her counselor made assumptions about her commitment and aptitude and discouraged her from doing so.

This experience affected Barker deeply and it is a memory she draws upon when working with students today. "Our kids are a mixture of many backgrounds and I imagine some share similar stories as mine, but I am reminded that my job is to help students find the answers when oftentimes they don't even know what questions they should be asking."

Eventually, not only did Barker attend the University of Wisconsin, she earned both a bachelor's and master's Degrees from the learning institution.

During her six years at BUSD, Barker has opened up many new learning opportunities for the BHS students. She not only was instrumental in creating the Early College program, but she also currently works as a counselor on Special Assignment heading up the CTE Pathways program.

In her new position, she has rededicated herself to helping students who might not see themselves continuing in higher learning. "It is incredibly fulfilling to see students who never considered themselves 'college material' thriving and enjoying college classes."

One program Barker is especially proud of implementing with Palomar College is the Associate Teacher Certificate. The ATC is an early education certificate program which provides the students with an opportunity to find employment conducive with attending college.

"It is a really good fit for our students who enjoy working with kids. BUSD is now exploring additional accelerated certification programs to connect students with employment opportunities faster," commented Barker.

"Eryn has been instrumental in early college program development. Taking a unique approach, Bonsall transports students to the satellite site of the local community college. This allows students to engage in a myriad of college courses, rather than limiting them to the classes that can be hosted on the Bonsall High School campus. She also manages the dual enrollment courses that currently occur on campus and supports alignment to Palomar College in order to ensure students have a variety of choices to meet their diverse interests and needs," said Jewyl Alderson, Innovation Division, SDCOE.

In addition to her duties at BUSD, Barker teaches in the Counseling Education department at Loras College in Iowa. Last year, Barker was contracted by SDCOE to create a guide for all counselors covering the changes with the new FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. She was also recently featured in the podcast, "The Future Starts With You," hosted by Alderson of the SDCOE.


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