Colleges That Change Lives

Changing Lives. One Student at a Time.

Counselors That Change Lives

As a non-profit organization, CTCL is dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process. Our mission is to help students frame their search beyond the ratings and rankings and to find a college that cultivates a lifelong love of learning and provides the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college.

The "Counselors That Change Lives" award recognizes those whose dedication to the college counseling profession reflects the mission of CTCL. Their tireless work does not go unrecognized and this program is our way of acknowledging all that they do to help students and families on a daily basis.

2015 Counselors That Change Lives
Amy Belstra, Libertyville High School, IL
Amy Belstra

The nomination states, "Amy Belstra is one of those rare individuals in this day and age who really thinks deeply about what's best for the students she counsels and how to express her thoughts in a manner that will command the student’s attention and confidence."

Amy’s student-centered approach to college counseling has remained constant in her career at two very high profile high schools. "It might have been easy for Amy to simply encourage the 'lemming' mode of investigating college options. Instead, she has challenged students and parents to look broader and think deeper about moving out of their comfort zones … Further, she manages to meet with every college rep that enters her world, always looking to learn more so she can pass that knowledge on to the students she serves."

Matt Burns, Woodrow Wilson High School, WA
Matt Burns

"The quintessential public school counselor," is how Matt Burns is described in the nomination.

"In Tacoma's socially and economically diverse environment, Matt continues to seek new ways to bring students more options and resources for discovering and connecting to their next goal in education. His unending enthusiasm and passion for exposing students to the best schools for them is infectious in nature, and remains with one long after a conversation has concluded."

Matt's work as a leader and advocate for public school counselors is a hallmark of his more than 20 years in college counseling. Active in local, regional, and national professional associations, he has served as a past president of the Pacific Northwest Association for College Admissions Counseling (PNACAC) and as a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC) Affiliate of Presidents Council. Among his more notable achievements is that he was a founding partner of the Tacoma College and Career Fair, an event that has grown in eight years to bring together over 1500 attendees and 190 colleges and organizations to explore college choice in the heart of the Tacoma Public School District.

Yvonne Espinoza, Gonzalo Garza Independence High School, TX
Yvonne Espinoza

The nomination begins, "In my twenty-plus years in working with students from the Austin, Texas area, I have not met a colleague who has been more dedicated to underserved students that Yvonne."

For a number of years, Yvonne Espinoza was the counselor at LBJ High school in Austin, which historically has served African American and Hispanic students as well as housed the premier magnet school within the city. Many colleges and universities would go to LBJ intending to visit the magnet students, but Yvonne was known for reaching out to them and reminding them to not forget her students, many of whom were first-generation. "She would arrange for students to visit schools across the country, and many had never set foot on an airplane before. Often her first task was convincing parents about the amazing opportunities available for their students."

Today Yvonne serves students at Gonzalo Garza Independence High School, a solution focused high school that works with students to complete their degrees regardless of their circumstances. "Yvonne continues to change young lives by mentoring students with less-than-perfect transcripts to help them to see that college can be an option for them."

David Feiner, Albany Park Theatre Project, IL

David Feiner

David Feiner and his colleagues oversee a multiethnic youth theater ensemble where students create original works based on real-life stories of immigrant communities in Chicago. The students write and perform very high-level theater, tour beyond Chicago, and have had their performances reviewed by national media. And, while it may seem unusual for a theater director to be honored with a college counseling award, according to the nomination, "Anyone who knows David and the work of the theater program he co-created with his late wife, Laura Wiley, won’t be surprised…."

"Most Albany Park Theater Project (ATPT) students are first-generation college students, and David and his staff provide academic support and college counseling by inviting colleges to speak at the theater, scheduling college visits for their students, driving students to their visits, proofreading numerous essays and artistic portfolios, and writing countless letters of recommendation. They encourage their students to attend small liberal arts colleges like those in Colleges That Changes Lives."

David's work to help students reach their potential—and to go above and beyond—has paid off: APTP's first-generation college students have a 70% graduation rate, compared to the 14% rate in Chicago Public Schools. And, for those students who go on to attend small, liberal arts colleges, the graduation rate is nearly 100%.

Kris Hilton, Central Academy of Des Moines Public Schools, IA
Kristin Hilton

Students attending Central Academy are known to be some of the brightest students in the public school system. Consequently, these students are often under a great deal of pressure to matriculate to the brand-name, "top tier" colleges and universities in the USA. The nominator put forth Kris Hilton for her efforts in "encouraging small liberal arts colleges to be present at local college fairs and to visit Central High School so that her students will have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and to get to know the type of education and experiences offered to students at CTCL-type institutions."

"Kris encourages students to discover and express who they are as people and to seek institutions that will allow them to continue their self-discovery and expression," which makes her deserving of this award.

Eva Varellas Kanellis, Anatolia College, Thessaloniki, Greece
Eva Varellas Kanellis

The nomination states, "Eva has probably done more to increase the visibility of the students and schools in Greece than anyone else. There is no doubt that Eva is a counselor who changes lives."

Eva is described as a champion and advocate for her students. Making students dig deep within themselves, she asks them the hard questions and works with and for them as they consider their next steps in education. "Eva's mission is to help each student find the right match—a place where they will continue to blossom as both a student and a person—and she has no doubt that small liberal arts colleges are often the places where her students are going to find the support and challenge to help them grow."

To encourage college representatives to come to Greece, to visit the students and counselors in their schools, and to bring the vision and mission of the liberal arts in person, Eva’s office will take care of all the details for an international visitor. All one needs to do to recruit in Greece is to drop Eva an email with dates!

Alica Tanaka, Holy Names Academy, WA
Alice Tanaka

The nomination describes Alice Tanaka as an "absolutely remarkable individual" who has served the needs of high school students as a college counselor for over 38 years at Renton High School, Mercer Island High School, and at Holy Names Academy, as well as a servant leader in both the PNACAC and NACAC communities, with a list of roles to long to enumerate.

"Alice cares deeply for students and colleagues. I can speak both directly to her impact on students as she has advocated for them in the admission process and by watching the subtle cues in Alice's counseling office at Holy Names. If you ever have a chance to visit this school, it won't take you long to see a student come rushing into Alice's office looking for advice on a problem or few comforting words. She is an incredibly patient and kind counselor who motivates students through direct but caring feedback and advice."

Alice is equally remarkable in her ability to build and maintain relationships on the other side of the desk. "She hasn’t just changed the lives of countless students but also of colleagues who interact with her both on the high school and college sides of the desk. For me, she has been a continual presence in providing guidance as I have navigated my own admission career, and I know many other admission officers and counseling colleagues who feel the same way."

Nanette Tarbouni, John Burroughs School, MO
Nanette Tarbouni

The nomination shares this story about Nanette Tarbouni: "On my first ever high school visit, Nanette and I had a conversation about a former student of hers who attended our institution. She instantly knew his strengths and weakness, as well as his experience at our institution. She then mentioned another student who she felt would excel at our institution based on his learning style and our unique curriculum. I was impressed with Nanette's high level of regard concerning the correct placement of her students, as well as her depth of knowledge regarding both current and former students and our institution's academic and campus culture."

A sincere and knowledgeable professional who genuinely and deeply cares about her students finding the right "fit" school, Nanette incorporates a student-centered approach along with wisdom, compassion, and a friendly and collegial personality. She is a counselor who changes lives.

2014 Counselors That Change Lives

Alice Kleeman, Menlo-Atherton High School, CA 

Carolyn Laurenza, Uncommon Charter High School, NY

Kathy Ortman, American International School of Guangzhou, China

Stephanie Shandra MMI Preparatory School, PA

Gisela Terner, Independent Consultant, WI

Bob Turba, Stanton College Preparatory School, FL

Susan Zarwell, University School of Milwaukee, WI

2013 Counselors That Change Lives

Jennifer FitzPatrick, Columbus Academy, OH

Timothy Gibson, St. George's Independent School, TN

Kelly Herrington, University Prep, WA

Elisabeth Marksteiner, International School of Zug and Luzern, Switzerland

Gretchen Parks, Academy of the Sacred Heart, MI

Robert Zapotocky, The Galloway School, GA

2012 Counselors That Change Lives

Helen Berger, Houston Preparatory Academy, TX

Anne Cochran, Charter High School of the Arts--Multimedia and Performing, CA

Emily Colman, Brooklyn Latin School, NY

Melanie Drake, Whitfield School, MO

Janet Glovinsky, Denver Center for International Studies, CO

Donald Kamentz, Direct of College Initiatives, YES Prep, TX

Crys Latham, Washington Latin Public Charter School, DC

Emmanuel Manu, W.E.B. Dubois High School/CollegeBound Foundation of Baltimore, MD

Diana Olivarez, Camino Nuevo Charter High School, CA

Terry Ullram, Watkinson School, CT

2011 Counselors That Change Lives

Emily Berty, Kirkwood High School, MO

Steffanie Gentile, Clark Montessori (public magnet), OH

Daniel Gin, Niles West High School, IL

Adam Kendis, North Star Academy Charter School of Newark, NJ

Stacy Lightfoot, Chattanooga School for Creative Arts, TN

Jim Montague, Boston Latin School, MA

Ginger Patron, Patapsco High School, MD

Margaret Smith, Chattanooga School of the Arts and Sciences, TN

Jeff Stahlman, New Albany High School, OH

Karen Tcheyan, CollegeTracks at Wheaton High School, MD

Jean Whalen, Pine Richland High School, PA

2010 Counselors That Change Lives

Robert Andrews, Director of College Counseling, Schuler Scholar Program, IL

John Boshoven, Counselor for Continuing Education, Community High School, Michigan

Brendan Diffley, Director of Guidance, Pinewood Preparatory School, SC

Nora Dowley, Dean of Enrichment, Codman Academy Charter Public School, MA

John Fanning, Director of Counseling and College Counseling, Jones College Prep, IL

Bridget Herrera, Counselor, Escola American de Campinas, Brazil

Lauren Hoyt, Director of College Counseling, Oakwood Friends School, NY

Rebecca (Becki) Rutsky, College and Career Advisor, Alabama School of Fine Arts, AL

2009 Counselors That Change Lives

Erin Duffy, Upper School Head, from Seacrest Country Day School, FL

Dr. Jim Fadely, Director of College Counseling, University High School of Indiana, IN

Debbie Greenberg, Director of College Counseling, College Bound, MO

Dr. Whitney Laughlin, College Horizons, Founder and Assistant Director, NM

Ms. Cynthia Markoch, Eastside High School, IB Counselor, FL

Lynda McGee, College Counselor & AVID Counselor, Downtown Magnets High School, CA

Carl Peterson, Counseling Department Chair (Retired) Forest Hills Eastern High School, MI