Barbara Gao Shapiro
Director, High School & College Access and Preparedness
Success Academy Charter Schools (NY)
What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
- I am deeply inspired by the power that college access—and true K-12 college preparedness—can have on an individual and societal level. As the daughter of immigrants who grew up in Arizona, and found my way to Wall Street, I am acutely aware that college access changed the trajectory of my entire life.
- I work at a K-12 charter school network that is growing quickly. When I joined five years ago, we had just one high school that graduated 26 seniors; we were so proud when 100 percent were accepted to four-year colleges. This year, we plan to graduate over 110 seniors, we’ve opened 2 more high schools, and we’re still seeing 100 percent college acceptance!
- This career move has been the opportunity of a lifetime; it’s so gratifying to support our scholars through the “last mile” of their time with us.
- There’s much more I could say about my career path…find me for a coffee or an adult beverage at the next conference!
What is your favorite part of the job?
- Supporting the folks I hire into our team grow their careers—in a program that was in its infancy when I joined five years ago! —is truly humbling. (P.S.: Spread the word—we are hiring more college counselors to join our newly opened high schools!)
- In a similar vein, any day that I hear from our alumni is a great day. Their paths in college have not been easy, but they show tremendous resilience and persistence. I love hearing their stories, and I am grateful that they want to stay connected with us!
How has NACAC played a role in your career?
- Because my background is not in education, NACAC was and remains critical to my professional development. Hearing different perspectives on college access across the spectrum of educational institutions that are a part of NACAC is extremely important to my work.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
- I worry about the negative impacts of adult burnout and exhaustion on our young people’s mindset toward their own futures.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
- I am an avid theatergoer (both for movies and live theater!) and I perform with a community choir.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
- Tom Nook, de facto landlord/king of Animal Crossing…because life in Animal Crossing land is so lovely and stress-free!