Meet Gary Berger

Gary Berger headshotGary Berger
Assistant Principal, Guidance and Student Services
Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (NJ)
Co-Leader of the Jewish Schools and Jewish Students SIG

What drew you to the world of college counseling?
I’ve always enjoyed working with youth and helping them discover their potential. I enjoyed helping them see that there is an entire world beyond their own single experience they have had up to that point. I discovered college counseling and realized it was a perfect match for me. I learned that each college offers its own unique opportunities and matching students with schools was an exciting puzzle to solve. Making the right match is obviously so important and I enjoy providing the guidance needed to help make the best matches possible.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I think my favorite part of the job is when alumni come back after graduation and tell the stories about their college experiences. It is so genuinely rewarding to know I had a positive impact on them.

I also truly enjoy going around the country and seeing the schools and meeting the college representatives who really love their jobs. For me, getting to meet people from across the country is actually fun!

How did you get involved with the Jewish Schools and Jewish Students SIG?
Once I began working in this field, I saw a gap in services at conferences. Our needs as representatives for Jewish students are very specific and we need information about which schools will best serve our students. For example, our students may need kosher food options. There was limited information available to help counselors representing Jewish students best assist those students. Once I discovered this issue, I became extremely interested in working to resolve these issues.

Why should counselors and admission professionals get involved with a NACAC SIG?
NACAC is such a large organization. Getting involved in a SIG provides opportunities to network with people who are interested in the same topics, goals, and issues that you are. It helps to take a large organization and make it a smaller group. That group can become a group that you know well and see at conferences throughout the year. I have found that SIG meetings are the most valuable part of my conference attendance.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
The average counselor-to-student ratio is too high in our country. In some states, the ratio is as high as 1-to-900. It is an enormous challenge to provide personal and appropriate service to students when ratios are this large. I have been lucky to have a smaller ratio at my school, but across our country, it is a huge challenge to help individual students.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
When I’m not working, I like to travel and spend time with my family. If I have vacation time, it’s likely you’ll find me at a Disney park somewhere in the world.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I think I’d choose to be Ironman. He’s just an ordinary guy with extraordinary powers. He has access to all types of technology that allow him to know how to react in any situation. That’s why he always wins his battles!

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