Wednesday, April 01, 2009

by Stacy Armstrong

There are many reasons why Sara Gonzales-Tapia loves her job as the new director of Citrus College’s Extended Opportunities Programs and Services, Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education, and California Work Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids programs.

First, the Monrovia resident says it takes her out of her comfort zone.

“I saw the position as an opportunity to challenge myself professionally,” she said.  “I wanted to grow in my chosen field and found that moving into a management position would bring on an entirely new set of challenges.”

Second, the position enables her to “give back.”

“I was born and raised in Azusa.  I attended Paramount Elementary, Center Intermediate, and Azusa High,” Gonzales-Tapia says.  “It is an honor to work at Citrus College because I feel this is my opportunity to give back to my community.”

And last, but definitely not least, she loves the students.

“I have been fortunate enough to be able to connect with students and help navigate them through higher education,” she says.  “I believe that because I have had this direct one-on-one contact with the students, I have an advantage in knowing what services are effective for this specific population.”

While Gonzales-Tapia may be new to the position, she is not new to Citrus College.  In fact, she has been working on campus as an adjunct counselor in the CalWORKs Program for the past two and a half years.

“I have established important working relationships, not only with staff and faculty at Citrus, but also with those from other regions,” she says.

Prior to coming to Citrus College, she served as an adjunct counselor for West Los Angeles College and a tenured EOP&S/CARE counselor at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita.

“I have focused my career on serving under-represented populations because I am a first generation college student from a working class family,” she said.  “Because of my personal experiences, I believe that education is the key to having more opportunities in life and know that everyone is capable of being successful in college.”

Gonzales-Tapia says she fell in love with counseling when she was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“As an undergraduate, I worked as a peer counselor for a program similar to EOP&S,” she said.  “It was such a great experience that I knew I wanted to work as an educator in the counseling profession from that point on.”

She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in education from UCLA, before beginning her career.

“Counseling has always been a great fit for me,” she says.  “Now, as director of the Citrus College EOP&S/CARE and CalWORKS Programs, I will have a major impact on the quality of services our students will receive.”