By Rich Rezler /Washtenaw Community College
Ann Arbor Huron High School counselor Caitlin Van Cleve is the inaugural winner of the WCC Bridge Award, a student-nominated honor intended to reward a local high school counselor that made a difference in a student’s life while bridging the path from secondary to post-secondary education.
As an aspiring first-generation college student and immigrant from Costa Rica attending Huron High School, Pablo Garcia says he didn’t know much about the process of going to college in the United States. What he did know, he says, is going to college “was my deepest longing and my dream to accomplish.”
To make that dream a reality, he depended on Van Cleve, who directed Garcia through the process of enrolling at Washtenaw Community College. “She always listened to me and answered every question I had,” Garcia says.
On Friday, the 2019 Huron graduate was able to publicly thank Van Cleve. He nominated his former counselor for the WCC Bridge Award. That nomination was chosen for presentation at the college’s annual High School Partners Breakfast, a gathering of local high school administrators, counselors and teachers.
“Ms. Van Cleve was always there helping me and setting me on the right track,” Garcia said while introducing her to the audience. “She introduced me to the STEM Scholars program, the scholarships that WCC offered, and helped me become a dual-enrolled student during my senior year at Huron High School. If I could thank anyone for all their support and patience, it would definitely be Ms. Van Cleve.”
Ironically, it was at last year’s High School Partners Breakfast that Van Cleve learned about the new STEM Scholar program at WCC. When she returned to Huron, she brought it to the attention of Garcia and classmate Umang Bhojani – two gifted students who Van Cleve knew may find it difficult to pay for four years at a university. Bhojani was on-hand to help present the WCC Bridge Award to his former counselor.
Garcia is now flourishing at WCC, where he’s a Pre-Engineering Science Transfer major, the student president of the college’s STEM Scholars organization and an officer with the student club “Transfer to Success.”
Van Cleve, who received a standing ovation from those gathered, said she was overwhelmed by the honor.