This Newark high school counselor was discouraged from applying to college. She’s determined to help her students ‘achieve their dreams’

By Catherine Carrera

As application deadlines for colleges and universities creep closer, the office of Newark high school counselor Stephanie Rivera-Beltre bustles with students seeking her advice on their essays and applications.

During this season, her workload can be overwhelming, and her days especially long. But walking her students through the college admissions process and encouraging them to pursue the futures they want is what brings happiness to Rivera-Beltre — and it’s what motivates her to keep going.

“It really does bring me so much joy,” said Rivera-Beltre, college and career match counselor at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy. “It is so awesome to see how excited they are about applying to schools and programs.”

Perhaps her students’ excitement comes from having a counselor whom they can relate to and who understands them. Rivera-Beltre is a Brooklyn-native Afro-Latina with a Dominican and Puerto Rican background. She often tells her students about her own experience applying to colleges when she was in high school. Her guidance counselor’s discouraging feedback nearly crushed her dreams of pursuing higher education.

That experience, although devastating at the time, led her to the role she has today — her dream job. After getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she became a college preparatory counselor in Brooklyn, later moving into a teaching position for nearly 11 years. A few months ago, she joined the KIPP NJ team at Newark Collegiate Academy.

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