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Counselor creates bond with services

Guide helps connect pupils to community

By Cody McFarland, associate editor
On April 26, 2014

  • Counseling department Chairperson Norma Valdez-Jimenez speaks with a student in her office in the Student Services Center on Friday. George Morin / The Advocate

Whether she is providing guidance, recommending the right classes or helping students develop educational plans, counselor and counseling department Chairperson Norma Valdez-Jimenez puts forth the effort to make a connection with her students.
Tucked away in the counseling department within the Student Services Center, in a room typically occupied by her and a student, Valdez-Jimenez fulfills her duties as a counselor and department chairperson, as well as handles responsibilities on the Subcommittee on Orientation, part of the districtwide Student Success Initiative task force.
She believes the key to student persistence and goal completion - the focus of the Student Success Initiative - lies in establishing a connection with students and making them feel like they are a part of the campus and part of something larger than themselves.
If there is one thing students pick up on when in her presence, it is that Valdez-Jimenez really cares about their needs for self-actualization and their futures, Puente Club President and physics major Luis Vega said.
"She has a really strong personality that engages students," Vega said. "She has the role of a leader and is very professional, which might seem intimidating, but when you sit down with her one-on-one you get that connection."
Julian Godinez, pre-nursing student and counseling desk assistant, agrees.
"She's awesome. She's pretty much my boss, but it doesn't really feel that way," Godinez said. "She's very open and easy to talk to about anything."
Valdez-Jimenez is also fluent in both English and Spanish, bringing her bilingual and bicultural capabilities into play to better serve Contra Costa College's student population, more than 30 percent of which is Hispanic.
In addition to her roles as counselor, chairperson and on the student success task force, Valdez-Jimenez is responsible for co-founding the Puente Program at CCC, which offers academic support for Hispanic students.
Godinez said Valdez-Jimenez is popular among students, adding that she gets asked for by name quite often.
When Associated Students Union President Ysrael Condori first arrived on campus, coming from Peru, he said the connection Valdez-Jimenez established with him served to strengthen his bond to the college and influenced him to explore his options and set goals.
"Norma helped me clear up the doubts I had when I first came here," Condori said.
"She has a lot of knowledge in instructing students as to which classes to take to meet their goals. She also recommends extra-curricular activities that coincide with your goals and points out resources students may overlook."
If the key to persistence and success truly is establishing a campus connection, it is unanimous among students that Valdez-Jimenez does this well.
Outside of helping students develop ed plans and register for the classes they need to graduate. Valdez-Jimenez said she helps students find solutions to the personal life challenges that face CCC's diverse student demographic.
"Our students are amazingly resilient. The things that get in the way of student success are not a lack of potential or because they are not smart enough," Valdez-Jimenez said. "It's their personal life challenges."
Abstaining from giving advice, she said she listens to her students to get a feel for where they are coming from, then presents questions that prompt them to find the answers within themselves.
"I don't believe in giving advice," she said. "I believe in being fully present in that moment that (the student is) in my office. I ask questions that can further help them explore the question in front of them. They ask themselves, respond to themselves and find the answers within themselves."
Her counseling methods have resonated with many of the students she has seen throughout the years.
Whether it is just to say thank you, give her a hug or tell her what they have accomplished post-CCC, graduates and transferees are regularly coming to the SSC to check in with their favorite counselor, Godinez said.
"People who have graduated come back just to see her," he said. 

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