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Meet Amy Belstra

Amy Belstra
College Counselor
Libertyville High School (IL)

How did you get your start as a school counselor?
It was a true epiphany. After 11 years in the admission field, I was at a crossroads: Do I continue in this field and become a director of admission, and most likely leave Colorado (I was working at University of Denver at the time)? Or do I choose a new path? I was literally processing this on the phone with my mom when I realized that I wanted to work more closely with students and move to the high school side. While in grad school, I interned at Cherry Creek High School, and I spent my formative years there as a counselor and post-grad specialist.

What is your favorite part of the job?
It’s the process of discovery when talking with a student, sort of like an archaeological dig: Who are they? What is beneath the veneer of high school expectation? What challenges do they face when no one is looking? How do parents and friends influence them and how can I help them find confidence in their own voice and path? My wife calls it my superpower. Taking that information and pushing them to consider schools that they knew nothing about. When all this information converges, their lightbulb turns on (sometimes slowly, sometimes in a flash of light) and they realize that they have the power within to make college a reality. Gosh, it sounds like a Marvel movie...

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
When I was hired at DU in 1989, my letter of employment included a registration form for the NACAC conference in New York City. Thirty years later, it’s hard to quantify the power of NACAC in my life! So many mentors, conversations, resources, inspirations. The annual conference is the most rejuvenating three days of my year.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
An ironic question as we all parse out the details of “Operation Varsity Blues.” But none of that scandal surprises me. I remember when admission became more corporate: when leveraging was the hot new thing to attract students who could pay; when marketing began to produce new applications from new markets; when the volume of applications reflected selectivity, which in turn began to reflect prestige; when colleges became experts in data. Truth is, teenagers are still teenagers, easily influenced by others. We can’t go back. Nor should we. But how do we help these kids understand that they are the authors of their story—not the name of the college they attend? That is the challenge we face every day.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Read. Get outside. Take our adorable pups to the park. Watch Game of Thrones. Anticipate watching Game of Thrones. Dream of retirement and an RV trip to all the national parks.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Since I’m on a Game of Thrones kick, how about Arya Stark? Though I’m not as feisty as Arya, I wish I was. She’s independent, resourceful, and I know she’s going to have a major comeback this final season. (But know I have no desire to slay a list of people that I recite every night as a mantra.)

Describe yourself in five words.
I crowdsourced this to Facebook, as I find this a difficult task. Here are the five I felt were most true:  Intuitive, ethical, advocate, thoughtful, and accessible.  And #6 - TALL.

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