Crimson Chronicle Reporter
UPDATE (10/12/21): Helen Albanez announced her departure from Hollywood High yesterday via a Schoology post, saying, “I will be moving on to another chapter in this journey called life outside of Hollywood HS and will be focusing on my family”.
For the past few weeks, when going up to the second floor of the main building, one would almost always see a lengthy line outside of room 426A, or the former math office turned SAS counselor’s office. Seeing students, under and upperclassmen, lined up to enter their counselor’s office is hardly an uncommon sight at the beginning of every fall semester. What is new, however, is the face that you are greeted with upon entering: one of a cheery, young black-haired Latina donning glasses.
As is old news for everyone at Hollywood High, Raul Grijalva, the former SAS counselor, retired last year after having worked with the Sheiks for over 35 years. In his place, the school has hired Helen Albanez to fill in his shoes. The question on everybody’s minds after Grijalva’s announcement of departure was who the new counselor would be and how they’d be like.
Albanez, the first generation daughter of Salvadoran immigrant parents and a CSUN alumna, got her start off in education 14 years ago working with the LACER afterschool program at Webster Middle School for six years before working at Para Los Niños Charter School as an office manager and English Language Acquisition Committee (ELAC) coordinator. It was during these early years of her career where her passion for working with students and families alike would really cement.
She decided to make the jump from predominantly helping out middle school students to becoming a high school counselor as she wanted to keep learning more about the educational field and further expand her professional career. As a Hollywood native, she also wanted a job that was closer to home to eliminate the need to take the, albeit short in her mind, commute to work.
The main challenge that Albanez brought up involving her role as the SAS counselor was the learning curve associated with the shift in school environments.
“I’m coming from a middle school setting where the classes are pretty [much] the same and there’s not a lot of options in that sense,” Albanez said, “so I’m having to learn the different courses and how that impacts your credits and your college career plans, and that’s been interesting.”
Despite this, the SAS students’ understanding and helpfulness has made it far easier for her to bear.
She considers herself an artsy person, with art being something she’s used extensively throughout her career to connect with students, especially for social-emotional purposes. Outside of that, she is incredibly passionate about culture because of her status as a first generation immigrant and enjoys asking about students’ different upbringings and family history.
“Sometimes, it’s hard, you know, to find people that can understand your family’s struggles and how they got here or how you grew up”, she said, “so it’s always nice to find people, even if they’re from different countries.”
When it comes to her work ethic, one of the main ideals she said she abides by is the one of the 50/50 split; she will work hard to provide for the students and faculty under the condition that they put in the effort to help her in return. She also wants to “keep it real” with the students and avoid sugar coating things while still keeping it clean.
Finally, what does Albanez think about having the position Grijalva had for over three decades? At first, she was intimidated knowing how involved he was in the school. She says that doesn’t see herself matching the legacy that he had left when he retired. It’s a legacy that belongs to him and that he earned himself, she said.
“All I would really ask or hope for is just the opportunity for you guys to get to know me so that I can create my own version of that, kind of like my own legacy, or my own version of how I do things,” she said. “At the end of the day, my goal is the same as his was: to make sure that you guys were successful, that you guys feel supported, that your families feel supported, that you guys understand and are on the same token.”