Pushing Poets and helping youth learn to embrace themselves
ASST. OPINIONS EDITOR
For the second installment of the Weingart Center for Career and Professional Development (WCCPD) series, the Quaker Campus (QC) interviewed Assistant Director of Career and Professional Connections Sandra Arana. She jokes that her title is the same length as the office’s name. Additionally, she is a Career Counselor for students and alumni of Whittier College.
Arana received her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and Family Studies from California State University, Long Beach. After starting her family, she went back to school to obtain her Masters of Science in School Counseling. “In those four years, I realized I wanted to work with youth,” said Arana, remarking on her decision to pursue counseling. During that time, Arana led her church’s choir and the youth group, which she states heavily influenced her career choice.
Arana detailed to the QC that during the four years between her undergraduate and graduate programs, there was an influx of youth at her church. As she became more and more involved with the choir, and eventually led the youth group, she realized her passion was not working with young children, but adolescents.
While earning her degree, Arana worked with on-campus programming, advocating for Latina students and students with mental illness. Arana takes the open-door policy to the next level: “I would have students coming into the office, and even though I didn’t have any one-on-one office [appointments], we would meet out in the open.” True to her roots, Arana will still do this (we interviewed in the middle of the Career Center).
Arana had one of her first internships at Millikan High School with Interim Assistant Dean Michelle Ponce, and the two instantly bonded over their work and families. “We realized we both had two kids going to the same school.” This relationship would prove vital to Arana while transitioning later in her career, when Ponce helped connect her to Whittier College. Arana started in an interim position at Whittier in March 2015 and has since been a part of the Poet family.
Arana has continued her work with Latinx students while at Whittier, and has also done multiple trainings on being an undocumented ally. “Even though there are movements taking place, [in terms of] careers, there’s still a halt. A lot of our undocumented and DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] students have had to figure out their own career paths,” said Arana. “I have been blessed enough to work with some of those students. I am still a support and a resource to them [after graduation].”
While at Whittier, she has also helped to create the Peace Corps Prep Program, which sets students up to graduate with a Peace Corps certificate. The first student of this program will walk this Spring 2019.
Day to day, Arana’s position allows her to work with potential employers and bring them on campus. “I am on Handshake 24/7,” said Arana, referring to the WCCPD’s job and internship networking site. She works to build relationships and ensure access for all students. “As the candidate, you should be vetting every employer.” Arana does, however, ensure that not only do three Handshake coordinators vet each employer for legitimacy, but she also goes through their background and legitimacy. The Handshake program itself also offers its own trust rating of professionals.
When asked to explain what Handshake really is, Arana said, “Handshake is the offspring of Facebook and LinkedIn.” The site, which also has an app available, allows users to message and follow potential employers, as well as post about themselves. Students are able to apply to jobs directly from the app, and each student has an account, which can be accessed with their poet email credentials.
Arana continues to lead her church’s youth group and wears many hats on the Whittier College campus, as well as at home. Her advice to the student body is to get engaged in life and give back as much as you can.