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Meet YOUR Counselor

As Counselors, we want to better connect with you. We like to say, "our door is always open, even during this pandemic, we're here virtually"
Cynthia Wilde

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Cynthia Wilde
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  • Where did you grow up and what was your high school name?  I was born at Stanford Hospital, grew up in Palo Alto, and graduated from Palo Alto High School 30 years ago (Class of 1990)!
  • What program do you oversee at Sequoia and/or what are you involved in at Sequoia?  I work with all grade levels at Sequoia. In addition, I am the counselor for English Language Learners in our ELD II and III classes, as well as the counselor to four AVID classes.  I also am a member of the School Site Council, a group comprised of teachers, staff, parents, students, and administrators, that meets monthly to evaluate school programs, practices and spending.  
  • How many years have you been at Sequoia?   This will be my sixth year at Sequoia.  
  • What undergrad university did you attend and what was your major?  I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz (go Slugs!), which included one year as an exchange student at the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain.  
  • What grad school did you attend to become a counselor? San Jose State University
  • Name a fun fact, a hobby, or interest you’d like students to know about you.  I love dancing to live music (especially the band, the Grateful Dead, who I saw perform over 200 times), as well as traveling, and I am most grateful when I get to do both at the same time, such as when I went to a music festival in Cancun, Mexico to see the band Dead and Company perform.
I also am passionate about animal rights and have been a vegan for almost seven years, so if you are ever interested in trying vegan food (or hearing some Grateful Dead!), stop by my office :)
 
Did you always want to be a school counselor? If not, what did you want to become?  
My journey to becoming a school counselor was quite long.  Shortly after I finished college, I got married and quickly started a family.  I then spent the next 10 years raising my three children (all of whom have since graduated from high schools in our district).  Once my children were school-aged, I started volunteering in their classrooms and enjoyed it so much I started working at a teacher’s aide for the Redwood City School District.  From my experiences as an aide, where I really treasured getting to build relationships with students, I realized I wanted to become a school counselor (and fun fact, my grandmother was also a school counselor!), so I enrolled in graduate school.  Going to school while working full time and being a mom was hard, especially when my daughter got sick and spent six weeks in the hospital, but thanks to the support of my family and my community, including Sequoia, I was able to do it, and now I have been a counselor at Sequoia for almost six years!  I love what I do and am grateful to have the opportunity to work with Sequoia students and staff each day.  Go Ravens!
 
Want to connect with Ms. Wilde?
To schedule an appointment (click here)
 
Do you want to drop in during Ms. Wilde's office hours? Please join her Mon, Tues, Thurs, Friday, 1:00-1:30, Mon, Tues, 3:00-3:40 via Zoom. Students: please log in to CANVAS to access zoom link. Located in your grade level class (ex: 9th Counselor)
Emilia Flores

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Emilia Flores
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Hello, my name is Emilia Flores or Ms. Flores, and I grew up in Southern California and went to Pete Knight High School. I am the counselor for ELD I students and a mix of students from all grades. I am happy to be starting my second year at Sequoia. I moved from San Diego to NorCal after receiving my undergraduate degree at UCSD and my counseling degree from USD. I became a counselor because I wanted to be an aide in students’ success. I am passionate about creating equitable environments for all students and honestly believe all students can be successful if we continue to remind them of that. I look forward to meeting with you all! 

Hola, mi nombre es Emilia Flores o Srta. Flores, crecí en el sur de California y fui a la preparatoria Pete Knight. Soy la consejera de los estudiantes de ELD I y una mezcla de estudiantes de todos los grados. Estoy feliz de comenzar mi segundo año en Sequoia. Me mudé de San Diego a NorCal después de recibir mi título universitario en UCSD y mi título de consejero de USD. Me convertí en consejero porque quería ayudar en el éxito de los estudiantes. Me apasiona la creación de entornos equitativos para todos los estudiantes y creo sinceramente que todos los estudiantes pueden tener éxito si continuamos recordándoles eso. ¡Espero reunirme con todos ustedes!
 
 
Want to connect with Ms. Flores?
To schedule an appointment (click here)
 
Do you want to drop in during Ms. Flores's office hours? Please join her Monday-Friday, 1pm-1:30pm via Zoom. 
Students: please log in to CANVAS to access zoom link. Located in your grade level class (ex: 9th Counselor)
Hoxira Castaneda

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Hoxira Castaneda
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My name is Hoxira Castaneda. I grew up in Ontario, California (not Canada) and I went to Chaffey High School. This is my fifth year at Sequoia but my second year as a Counselor. I am the Digital Arts Academy (DAA) Counselor. I received my degree from UC Santa Cruz (Go Banana Slugs!!) in Psychology and a minor in STEM Education. I also received my Counseling degree (M.A and PPS) from the University of San Francisco (Go Dons!). Fun fact: I like to go on hikes or beaches with my partner and our husky, Chewie.
 
I became a counselor mainly because I wanted more educators who look like me supporting youth. Growing up most of my teachers and counselors did not look like me, which made it tough when I wanted to talk about my parents’ immigration case. During my high school years was especially hard for me because my parents received a deportation letter which made it really difficult to focus in school. I confided in my counselor, Mr. Santia, and he tried his best to understand and help me, and from that moment I knew, if I wanted to support youth that looked like me I needed to be in his shoes and become a high school counselor. I could confidently say, that Mr. Santia was my biggest support in high school, emotionally, with college applications, financial aid, and even choosing my first car (which I still have today!) If I would give any of my students advice, that I wish I heard in high school it will be; don’t compare your achievements with others, everyone learns and grows differently. Explore your culture in high school and don’t be ashamed of who you are and your roots. Love your name(s). 
 
Introducción en Español
Mi nombre es Hoxira Castaneda. Este es mi quinto año en Sequoia pero mi segundo como consejera. Soy la consejera de la academia de artes digitales (DAA). Me recibí de la Universidad de California de Santa Cruz en psicología y educación de ciencias, tecnología, matemáticas, e ingeniería. También me recibí de consejera de la Universidad de San Francisco. A mi me gusta ir a la playa y a caminar con mi pareja y mi perro, Chewie. 

Para resumir, yo decidí la carrera de consejería porque cuando estaba en la secundaria, mis padres recibieron su carta de deportación. Me acuerdo que no tenía un adulto con quien yo confiaba porque no había muchos que se miraran como yo. Mi consejero me ayudó mucho pero no era Latino y no sabia que decir más que escuchar. Gracias a él ahora soy consejera porque quiero que los estudiantes se puedan identificar con mas que una persona en la secundaria. Mi consejero me apoyó bastante con las aplicaciones más que todo porque mis padres no sabían nada del proceso. Para concluir, a mi me hubiera gustado que alguien me diga que no me compare con los demás, todos aprendemos y crecemos diferentes. Me hubiera gustado poder aprender mas de quien soy yo, de dónde, y apreciar mi cultura y raíces. Y más que todo, amar mi nombre.
 
Want to connect with Ms. Castaneda?
To schedule an appointment (click here)
 
Do you want to drop in during Ms. Castaneda's office hours? Please join her 8/17-8/31 Monday- Friday 1-1:30 and Tuesday- Thursday 3-3:30 via Zoom. Students: please log in to CANVAS to access zoom link. Located in your grade level class (ex: 9th Counselor)
 
Joel Rebello

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Joel Rebello
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  • Where did you grow up and what was your high school name? Daly City and attended South San Francisco HS
  • What program do you oversee at Sequoia? Health Careers Academy and three sections of AVID
  • How many years have you been at Sequoia? Going on year 7
  • What university did you attend and what was your major? San Jose State University: Sociology with a minor in African American Studies 
  • What grad school did you attend to become a counselor? San Jose State University
  • Name a fun fact, a hobby, or interest you’d like students to know about you. I love art; fine art on all mediums and digital art.   
 
What’s the reason you became a counselor?
To be presented with the opportunity to show youth what they are capable of.  
 
Who was a person that supported you through high school?
My older sister was a huge support system and still is, as first generation siblings, her educational experience helped shape mine.  
 
What was your experience when applying to universities?
My exposure to the college admissions process was limited to one or two conversations with a staff member regarding the California State University system.  I ended up applying to four state schools (with the four fee waivers I received).
 
Did you always want to be a school counselor? If not, what did you want to become?
I had an interest in architecture and design throughout high school, I figured they were careers most related to my love for art.  It was not until my first semester at college where I developed a passion for  helping others.    
 
What advice would you give students that you wish someone told you in high school?
It is important to learn about yourself, your strengths, what makes you happy, and know that you have the capacity to change.   
 
 
Want to connect with Mr. Rebello?
To schedule an appointment (click here)
 
Do you want to drop in during Mr. Rebello's office hours? Please join him Monday-Friday, 1pm-1:30pm via Zoom. 
Students: please log in to CANVAS to access zoom link. Located in your grade level class (ex: 9th Counselor)
Melissa Pérez

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Melissa Pérez
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  • Where did you grow up and what was your high school name?: Redwood City, Sequoia High School, woot woot! alumni pride :)
  • What program do you oversee at Sequoia and/or what are you involved in at Sequoia?: Head Counselor, Department Chair for the Counseling Department 
  • How many years have you been at Sequoia? 13 years in the Sequoia Union High School District
  • What undergrad university did you attend and what was your major? Bachelor’s of Science in Commerce, Business Management from Santa Clara University 
  • What grad school did you attend to become a counselor? University of San Francisco
  • Name a fun fact, a hobby, or interest you’d like students to know about you- Drives to the beach and walks along the coast are my favorite. The ocean is my happy and zen place.

Did you always want to be a school counselor? If not, what did you want to become?
Did you always want to be a school counselor? If not, what did you want to become? When I was in high school I was so eager to leave and never return, but little did I know that four years later I would be back full circle. During part of high school and college, when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the “rest of my life,” I really believed that I would pursue a profession in Business and eventually become a wealthy CEO, however, while at Santa Clara University, social justice and civic engagement became central to my identity, survival, and empowerment as a first-generation Mexican-American high school and college graduate in my family. While in college I really enjoyed volunteering at local San Jose schools and community organizations that predominantly served low-income families, it was especially rewarding working with youth and teaching them about their cultural history and empowering them to pursue higher education. After graduating from SCU I knew that I wanted to continue being a leader and also help others so I decided to pursue the educational sector. In 2007 I started out as an office assistant at the Sequoia Union High School District. Four years later and after being in a couple of other roles, I had the privilege of working with some of the most marginalized students and I decided that I needed to go back to graduate school and become a Counselor in order to help students feel cared about and to make positive systemic change.
 
Want to connect with ms. Perez? 
To schedule an appointment (click here
 
Do you want to drop in during Ms. Perez's office hours? Please join her Monday, Wednesday, & Friday, 1pm-1:30pm via Zoom. 
Students: please log in to CANVAS to access zoom link. Located in your grade level class (ex: 9th Counselor)
Potoula Vlahakos

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Potoula Vlahakos
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Greetings, Sequoia Family! My name is Potoula (Patty) Vlahakos. I have been a proud member of our Sequoia Counseling team since 2017. Prior to joining the Sequoia team, I worked as a counselor at El Camino High School in South San Francisco for approximately ten years. I was born and raised in South San Francisco, CA. I attended San Francisco State University where I earned a B.A. in Psychology. For graduate school, I attended the University of San Francisco where I earned a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology with an Emphasis in School Counseling, and a Pupil Personnel Services Credential.
 
My pursuit of a career as a school counselor was largely influenced by my experiences volunteering with youth during my high school and college years. I served as a Greek Folk Dance instructor for small children for many years and the experience inspired me to want to continue to serve in a supportive role for youth. 
 
For fun, I enjoy camping, playing board games and spending time with my close friends, my husband, and my two young children. 
For the students reading this message, I encourage you to build relationships with your teachers, administrators, counselors, and other Sequoia staff. You are a valued member of our community and we aim to support you in any way possible. Throughout high school (and beyond), be sure to step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, embrace adversity and do not fear new experiences. 
 
“You are Braver than you believe, Stronger than you seem, and Smarter than you think.”― A. A. Milne Christopher Robin
 
Don't hesitate to reach out to ask questions, seek help, or to just say "hello".
 
Want to connect with Ms. Vlahakos? 
To schedule an appointment (click here)
 
Do you want to drop in during Ms. Vlahakos's office hours? Please join her Monday-Friday, 1pm-1:30pm via Zoom. 
Students: please log in to CANVAS to access zoom link. Located in your grade level class (ex: 9th Counselor)
Miki Cristerna, Intervention Counselor

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Miki Cristerna, Intervention Counselor
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Hello!  My name is Michelle Cristerna, but I go by my nickname, Miki, with students, parents and staff.   I grew up in Fairfax County, Northern Virginia inside the ‘beltway’ of Washington, D.C.  I lived there until I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA, class of 1985. After graduation I headed to Richmond, VA where I attended Virginia Commonwealth University and earned a bachelor's degree in Sociology & Cultural Anthropology. During my time as an undergraduate student, I enlisted in the US Navy Reserves, completing my service in 1994. I served in several reserve units based in Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland and spent my active duty time at Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington, DC  and Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland.
 
After completing my bachelors degree, I enrolled in a Special Education Teaching Credential Program with the University of Virginia. While completing my credential and after, I worked as a teacher/case manager for students in a residential state operated program at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children - Medical College of Virginia.  
In 1998, I  decided to move to California to pursue graduate school. I completed my masters degree in Clinical Psychology/Art Therapy Psychology at Notre Dame De Namur University in Belmont, CA. I then obtained my Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Counseling from the University of San Francisco and completed licensure as a Marriage & Family Therapist.  
 
I have worked in SUHSD for over 13 years, now at Sequoia High School, starting my second year as their Intervention Counselor.  At Sequoia HS, I oversee the 504 evaluation process and collaborate closely with students, teachers, families and other members of our Sequoia Intervention Team. I am honored to be starting my second year at Sequoia High School,  with its incredible students, staff and school community.  And yes, starting year two, I still feel like a newbie!
Andrew Cruz, Counseling Intern

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Andrew Cruz, Counseling Intern
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I grew up in East Menlo Park and Graduated from Eastside College Prep. I am one of the counseling interns this year and I will be working closely with Cynthia Wilde and implementing the Make It Happen curriculum. This is my first year at Sequoia. I attended University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Business administration. Currently I am attending University of San Francisco to earn my Masters in School Counseling. A fun fact about me is that I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.
 
What’s the reason you became a counselor?
The reason I am becoming a counselor is because going through school, I struggled a lot and was never considered at the top of my class. Instead of feeling defeated or discouraged, I worked hard, received tons of support from tutors, teachers, and community programs and continued to push forward. Along the way, with all the support I received, I was able to be successful and find strategies that worked for me. I want to be a counselor in order to support students find their own strategies for success.
 
Office Hours:
I will be available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 8 am - 12 pm 
 
Meagan Cantalupi, Counseling Intern

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Meagan Cantalupi, Counseling Intern
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My name is Meagan Cantalupi and I am a Counseling Intern working under the Intervention Counselor. I grew up in San Carlos and went to Carlmont High School (don’t hold it against me!). I received my bachelor’s degree in business and marketing from Saint Mary’s College. After working in tech for almost a decade,  I decided that I wanted a more fulfilling job so I decided to go back to graduate school to study counseling. Currently, I attend San Francisco State and I am set to graduate in May! The reason I became a counselor is because I had a rough time in high school and my counselor was an important source of support for me and I want to be able to provide that for my students. This is my first year at Sequoia and I am so excited to be here!
 
My office hours are Tuesday & Friday from 9AM-3:30PM