The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College counselor guides students toward their dreams


The aroma of coffee. The scent of freshly baked cookies. The conversation between students overpowers the sound of the music. Sandra Guzman walks into Espresso Metro with a big, welcoming smile and her bag in hand.

She waits in line to place her order. When she gets to the register, she asks what beverage the person before her just ordered, and she decides she’ll try the same one. Guzman says she’s the adventurous type — willing to try new things.

Guzman, 40, is City College’s coordinator and counselor for the Puente Project, which aims to increase college enrollment and graduation rates for educationally disadvantaged students.

A Sacramento native, Guzman says she has tried many new things in her life. A mother of two who graduated from Chico State University with degrees in psychology and Spanish, she is also a teacher, as well as a therapist with her own private practice located in Land Park.

“I’ve always wanted to work in higher education, and to be honest with you, I never knew that it would be as a counselor, or as the Puente counselor. I love it. I always thought I would be a psychology professor,” says Guzman.

After graduating from college, Guzman says she returned back home to work in her community. She says she bought a house in the same neighborhood where she grew up so she could stay close to what she loves: her community and family.

“I’ve always loved working with my neighborhood and my community,” says Guzman.

Before becoming the Puente counselor, Guzman worked with troubled youth at a private non-profit organization.

“I will never forget dropping off this young lady at her house,” says Guzman. “Her home was a mess. I think she was 12. And I remember thinking, ‘Who’s guiding her in her young adult life?’ She was messing up in school a lot and got kicked out of the center. I remember asking my boss, ‘What happens to her? Who helps her?’”

Her boss told her the girl could be helped by someone who had a master’s degree in psychology and clinical experience.

“I’ve got to get a master’s degree,”Guzman recalls thinking. “When I found out who helps them, I focused on becoming that person.”
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According to some of her students, Guzman is a huge inspiration. She urges them to chase their dreams and never give up on what they want to do.

“She’s my friend, mentor and boss. Working with her is a blessing,” says Angelica Garcia-Gavlan, student assistant for the Puente project. “Before I met her, I was shy. I’ve matured a lot since I’ve started working with her, and I’m able to take risks without being shy.”

Guzman, the oldest of two children, is a first-generation college student in her family — a characteristic common among Puente students.

“When I was younger, I had some worn-out, faded, dirty cleats that my father had got for me from the thrift store for $2,” says Guzman. “I remember the girls on the [softball] team teasing me for it. I beat out the girl trying out for second base. ‘Damn, I did that with some thrift store cleats.’ I remember telling her that,” laughed Guzman. “‘Sí se puede — yes, we can.’ I’ve always had a fighter spirit within that drives me.”

“Sí se puede” is a frequent saying among many “Puentistas” — a form of empowerment and motivation, Guzman notes.

But she is more than a counselor.

“She’s a parent. She has her two children, who are such a big part of her life,” says Dr. Travis Silcox, the English teacher for the Puente Project and Guzman’s colleague. “I think she’s a really good parent, and a lot of those skills transfer over to being a good counselor and teacher.”

Guzman’s students talk about her influence on them.

“Without having Sandra as a counselor, I would be running around in circles, confused, not knowing what to do as a student,” says former Puente student Luis Solis. “With her great, friendly advice, I am now on the verge of transferring to a four-year university.”

Guzman says she sees herself reflected in her students’ successes. “I can relate to where they are coming from,” says Guzman.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by guest writer Ralph Maldonado. 

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