Ms. Tashida Jacobs joined Common Ground this Fall as our school counselor! While Common Ground has always supported students in traveling paths to college success, meaningful careers, powerful leadership, and happy healthy lives, this is the first time we’ve had a school counselor who can help us take on this important work. This week, educational change interns Sarah Reynolds, Ronald McAuley, Jayden Carty, Taite Popkin, and Madison Acampora sat down with Ms. Jacobs to learn more about this new member of our Common Ground family.
My first priority is to be a support person for our students. I work in particular with the seniors, but I’ll be working with all students to make sure they are getting their needs met, and making sure they are on track in school.
I work with students on their social emotional needs, their career and college needs, their academic needs. Students rely on me to be an ear when they need support. I can be a reference when they are looking into college and career options.
Right now, my primary goal is making sure the seniors are getting what they need, and are prepared when they leave here – whether they are going to college, trade school, or a job. I want to make sure seniors graduate on time, and when they leave here, they have a way to sustain themselves.
What is your approach to helping students navigate the college application process?
My approach is to see where a student’s head is first, and then ask what they’ve done on their own already. After I figure out where they are, I try to give them options. I believe that college or professional training in a trade is necessary in today’s world. I understand that not everyone will choose college — but all students should experience what it’s like to fill out a college application, and be aware of different options, including community college, where you can learn a trade.
I try to be as honest as possible with my students. I try to make sure I am looking at all different perspectives, and be fair in everything that I do.
What path did you take to get to Common Ground?
Before coming to Common Ground, I worked at another high school, where I was a school counselor for almost 2 years. I interned for my Masters degree in New Haven, and always wanted to give back to the city where I attended school myself.
This summer, I got a call saying Common Ground was looking for a school counselor, and that the school had never had a counselor before. I thought it would be a great opportunity to start a counseling program here at this really unique school.
Prior to school counseling, I worked as a teaching assistant for about seven years. While in that job, there was a student I worked with who inspired me to follow this path. He was rough around the edges. He wrote me a letter, explaining that there were certain things in his life that he’d been handed, and he didn’t know other ways to handle things and navigate through life. I told him, you have numerous opportunities. Just because you grew up in a situation doesn’t mean you have to stay in that situation. You are what you put into this world. You can do different things with your life.
What motivates you to do this work?
I’m really passionate about school counseling. When I grew up, I never had an African-American school counselor. I knew there was a need.
For me, the young people always come first. Young people are the future. I want to make sure, when I am old and gray, that I’m in good hands. You are going to shape how everything moves forward. I want to make sure you have the tools to make this world a better place. Look at what you are doing in this school already. You have a fresh mind, a new way of looking at things that I may not have.
What were you like as a high school student?
I grew up in West Haven by the beach, but attended Career High School in New Haven. I was quiet. I kept to myself, but I was very much involved in extracurricular activities. Going to Career provided me with so many different opportunities. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t go to that school. I played softball and got my CNA license while I was in high school. I wanted to go into pediatric nursing, so I did an internship at Yale for people who wanted to do so. There was a partnership with Yale, where you had the opportunity to work in different areas of the hospital. I worked in the Yale Primary Care Center.
While I thought my path would be to continue in nursing, after college, I ended up working in a school. I found that I loved that work. It was working there that convinced me I wanted to continue working in school systems.
What are you like as a person?
I’m very open minded. I try to be fair in everything I do. I think those are strengths of mine. A weakness is that I’m a people pleaser sometimes.
I’m family oriented. I’m pretty reserved – I really value getting to spend time with my family.
I love to shop. I also love listening to music, a lot of different types of music. I’m a big R&B fan.