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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Online Student Advisor understands the struggles of going back to school

April 19, 2016
Online student advisor Summer Alvarez
Summer knows first-hand how much harder it is to go back to school once you leave.

Summer Alvarez knows what it is like to have to withdraw from college and put a future career at risk. She also knows how difficult it is to re-enter that world of academia – especially as a single parent.

Many students pursuing a career in business, medical and technical fields have had to interrupt their education for varying reasons. Few can muster the strength and resolve it takes to get back into that mindset and schedule.

Summer left college to care for her son, Noah. It took three years for her to recommit herself and resume her education to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

“I already went to school once and gave up,” says Summer. “You don’t always get a second chance, so I knew I had to finish my goal.”

Summer had an hour commute to college while she held down a full-time job. Without her mom’s help with childcare, she couldn’t have made it. Summer made the best of any opportunity she had to spend time with Noah.

“Sometimes his bedtime stories were the materials I had to read for a class,” she says. “I tried to read something that would be interesting for him and hoped he might learn something too.”

As a Student Advisor for SJVC Online, Summer uses her past struggles to better understand her students’ challenges in their Medical Assisting, Medical Billing and Coding, Construction Management, Business Administration and Human Resource Administration programs.

“It is my responsibility to help make sure students are successful, meet all their requirements to move towards graduation – and keep them motivated for their goals,” says Summer, who uses all communication methods, including phone, e-mail, Skype and video conferencing. She makes sure she gives her students as much one-on-one time as they need.

“I want my students to know from the beginning that I understand what they are going through,” says Summer. “I can relate to their life experiences, and will spend more time having the in-depth conversations that they need to move forward.”

“She is the perfect person to be a Student Advisor,” says Online student Shelly Ward. “She definitely keeps you on your toes, but keeps you motivated and wanting to do a good job; and for that, I thank her.”

Summer’s education in psychology and her background in Human Resources gives her tremendous insight into her students’ abilities, challenges and potential for success.

“My background lets me step away and look at everybody’s situation and how it affects them directly,” says Summer. “I have the open mindedness to see how every situation affects people differently and how they learn differently. I can personalize that for each of my students.”

“She comes from a psychology background and is really able to connect with students on a greater level,” says Alexandria Nolasco, Online Dean of Student Services. “Every day, Summer starts with a smile on her face and passion in her heart to help every single SJVC Online student.”

Summer has also won several awards and recognition for her successful student support, including the Online People’s Choice Award and Most Valuable Player Award (twice).

Summer’s favorite student moments are when she sees students overcome obstacles. “It’s when a student tells me about a struggle and says, ‘I knew what you would want me to do,’ and I realize that they were listening to me encourage them and taking it all in.”

Her students often validate the importance of her support. “Some students have told me that they’ve never had anybody believe in them before,” says Summer. “Sometimes I get an e-mail message that says, ‘Your words were the exact words I needed to keep going.’”

Summer knows how important it is to have a source of strength and support in your corner. Alf, her husband of about a year, is a great foundation of care and encouragement for her and 9-year-old Noah.

Summer intends to be a lifelong learner. She has plans to one day get her Master’s degree. But for now, she relishes the moment her hard work has earned and plans to enjoy some relaxing family time.

The time Summer spends with students keeps her energized. “I want to be the person who helps students be successful, who helps make their dreams come true,” she says. “Working with them keeps me going.”

Summer is not really putting her education on hold. “Every day I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.”