With a new school year comes new school staff. Mr. Carlos Alcantara, who grew up in El Monte, California, started working as the on Monday, September 17th.
Alcantara attended the University of California San Diego, where he studied for his Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development. Afterward, he pursued his Master’s of Social Work at the University of Southern California and later went on to start his career working with adolescents coming out of juvenile detention. According to Alcantara, “A lot of these kids had given up on themselves, so I came and met them and that’s how I started helping them get back into school and that’s how I got into the school environment.” He also explained how the school in his area did not seem to be doing as much as they could to help students, which further influenced his switch from juvenile to student work.
When asked about what influenced him to follow this line of work, Alcantara disclosed there were often times as a student when he wished there was someone he could talk to. Consequently, he decided to be what he believed students needed most. “I feel like this is the prime time [adolescence] to help students really redefine who they are because we still don’t know who we are.” Moreover, Alcantara stated he always felt his life would be interwoven around youth. “I really believe that really early in my life I found my purpose.”
As for coming to Valencia High School (VHS) specifically, Alcantara affirmed his love for the different backgrounds within the student population. “The diversity of students is something I gravitated towards.” He expressed that he looks forward to learning about the various cultural, family, and educational backgrounds. Staff have been very welcoming as well. “It’s one of the most collaborative team-oriented environments that I’ve been in,” he said. “Literally, the staff have dropped whatever they’re doing to help me; that has been the most welcoming experience.”
Of course, there are harder parts of working in a new environment. “There are so many new rules, new policies, like how things are done at the school.” However, Alcantara looks forward to learning the ways of VHS and getting involved with the lives of students.
When it comes to providing support, Alcantara explained that the best part of his job is helping students find their purpose. “I might be telling them they matter, but everything and everyone around them is telling them that they don’t.” Though it is often one of the biggest challenges he faces, it can also be among the most rewarding. To tackle this problem, he believes that the most important thing is making a connection with students and enforcing the idea that “what is important to them, is important.” Alcantara has also stated that whatever work he does with students, he must communicate he is there to support them through difficult situations.
After years of experience, Alcantara is certain he belongs in VHS to act as a pillar for anyone who needs him. “I want students to believe, not think, believe, that their voice matters, that their story matters.”