This story is reprinted from The Fresno State Alumni Association as written by Elisa Navarro. Originally published in the May 2017 issue of the Fresno State Alumni Association Newsletter.

Cecilia Ballesteros (2004) was recently presented with the Administrator of the Year Award from Fresno Unified School District’s Excellence in Education Awards for her work as a middle school counselor. She passionately works for her students and plans to continue to do so for as long as she can, because she loves being able to guide students and help them in their future endeavors.

As a young girl, Ballesteros lived with tunnel vision. She grew up in Fresno with strict Hispanic parents, and went directly from school to home and was the typical quiet girl in class who did what she was told and received stellar grades.

“I was super shy in school and I was that girl that would think ‘please don’t notice me or look at me’ and if someone would call me out in class it would freak me out and at night I would be sitting at the dinner table thinking ‘oh my gosh that teacher called on me!’”

In high school, a counselor encouraged Ballesteros to explore attending college, an idea she had never before considered, but one that would change her life.

“I took a chance by going to UC Santa Cruz, and through my studies I was able to get a good perspective of life that I didn’t at home, and it really opened me up to an idea that I can work in a profession with a lot of different people and different kinds of circumstances.”

Ballesteros graduated in 2004 with her Masters in Social Work, and has been an Academic Guidance Counselor for six years at Sequoia Middle School in South Fresno, where she motivates and helps students follow their dreams and encourages them to not be afraid and explore different paths and opportunities to expand their horizons.

“I want to show [students] that there are so many opportunities that they can have, and that they can change the trajectory of their life,” Ballesteros said, “My goal of getting into the education system was that I really wanted to notice the kids that don’t want to be noticed, like myself.”

A recent trip with a group of her students illustrates how impactful simple experiences can be in expanding their horizons.

“I took some kids to the beach last year and I didn’t even think twice about it. We went to visit CSU Monterey and we stopped at the beach to eat. Now imagine a busload of kids and they all run off the bus and just roll down the hill and throw themselves in the ocean with clothes and everything because they had never been to the ocean before. They were so excited.”

“I was in tears of joy to feel their happiness about something so small, however it was something they had never experienced or seen in their life.”

“You see the worst of the worst and the absolute best of the best, and this is probably the best job in the world, at least for me, because I get to show these kids that they don’t need to have a tunnel vision like I once did.”

View the original alumni association story at the LINK.