Oh, The Places She Helped Us Go

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Oh, The Places She Helped Us Go

Stack frequently updates several bulletin boards around campus in order to keep students informed.

Stack frequently updates several bulletin boards around campus in order to keep students informed.

Andres Velasco

Stack frequently updates several bulletin boards around campus in order to keep students informed.

Andres Velasco

Andres Velasco

Stack frequently updates several bulletin boards around campus in order to keep students informed.

Jesse Zambrano, Spotlights Editor

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The 2018-2019 school year brought many changes to our campus, however, the most surprising and heartfelt was the retirement of our College Assistance Program (CAP) Advisor, Mrs. Stack. She began to work on campus in 2012 after leaving her long-time job as a lawyer. Although she had never worked as a CAP Advisor, she was very interested in the subject matter and working with young people. When she heard the news that the previous CAP Advisor was retiring and realized that she was not enjoying her current job, she decided to apply for the position. 

Coming to work as the CAP Advisor brought on many challenges. Not only did Mrs. Stack walk into a career that she knew very little of, but she also had to begin everything from scratch in order to find a system that would work best for her in regards to helping and reaching students.

“My biggest challenge was that I knew nothing when I started! I am 100% self-taught and I overcame it through sheer grit and fascination with the subject matter and fear of failure. I worked an average of 68-70 hours per week every year I was at Gables to be able to learn enough to be able to really help students. I have never worked so hard in my life and at the same time I have never loved a job so much in my life,” Mrs. Stack said.

From her very first day to her very last, she worked extremely hard to make the department strong. Mrs. Stack diligently exposed all students from all grade levels with adequate and necessary information to tackle the college application process, which is no easy task. Mrs. Stack is a firm believer that one can never think about college too early when in high school. One of her biggest tasks was to prepare each Cavalier as well as possible.

Although our campus only has one CAP Advisor, Mrs.Stack, and over 3,000 Gables students, she was able to reach them all due to a schedule she stuck to rigorously. During the fall she worked with seniors and assisted them with the college application process, schedule college representative to come and speak to students, wrote letters of recommendations, reviewed and edited college essays, hosted the college forum, etc.

“Aside from the big meetings she would hold with seniors, Mrs. Stack personally checked in with me a lot. Being the first to apply to college in my family made the process extremely difficult, knowing this, Mrs. Stack would always send me everything at her disposal. Every resource she knew I could use or scholarship I was eligible to apply for, she would send my way. Without her, I would not have made it through the rigorous process that is applying to college. Without her, I would not have had the opportunity to attend Dartmouth College. She is truly a magnificent woman and we were all so blessed to have her on our side,” alumni Joshua Zambrano said.

During the springtime, she would focus on preparing the juniors by creating a college list, hosting scholarship meetings, encouraging them to go on the in-state and out-of-state college tour and even get them to sign up for the College Application Readiness Symposium (CARS) program. Although seniors and juniors were her primary focus, throughout the year she made visits to classrooms of all grade levels to make sure they would know how to begin the college process and provide them with a checklist of what should be completed at their grade level.

To name a few of the many, during her time on our campus, she implemented and created:

  • All CAP social media platforms like the Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
  • Computerized and electronically updated the entire department.
  • Created all new templates, flyers and electronic sign-ups for students regarding the college application.
  • Applied and wrote for a grant and received 25 CAP tablets to be used by students without access to the internet at home for college and bright futures applications.
  • Wrote a manual for the school and district named ‘ConnectEDU ‘, a college application platform that serves as a guide for Juniors and Seniors from 2012-2015.
  • Established College Application Week.
  • Established the CAP Capsule and its capacity to host group events/meetings and worked with the Coral Gables Community Foundation to secure donations to furnish it.
  • Instituted the Junior College Forum.
  • Created and Instituted CARS, along with Mrs. Suarez and Mrs. Van Wyk.
  • Established the UM Hyperion Council Mentor program.
  • Instituted the College Signing in its current form along with Mrs. Suarez.
  • Instituted the Out-Of-State College Tour along with Ms. Suarez.
  • Enhanced workshops for parents nights, class visits and brought in college partners to host financial aid nights for students.
  • Held various FAFSA workshops with college partners for seniors.
  • Created all college note binders in the CAP office for the student to use.
  • Created 4 CAP Bulletin Board’s which always had up to date CAP news.
  • Created a Bright Futures cheat sheet to make it easier for students.
  • Conceived of and Created the first electronic CAP survey with skip logic.
  • Created the CAP Senior Accolade Report to share with college reps, faculty and parents.
  • Created electronic annual CAP reports for the Principal and the District which offered the first-ever  trackable stats on seniors

It didn’t take long after Mrs. Stack began this job that she realized how much of a passion she has for this line of work. This very same passion is what allowed for a 93% increase in students attending a two or a four-year college during her tenure. Students receiving scholarships also saw an increase from an average of 7 million to 26 million from when she began until when she left.

One of her most memorable experiences at Gables was the time that she was able to be a direct influence on the outcomes of Anthony Maristany, Joshua Zambrano, Albany Muria and Carlos Diaz getting full scholarships to colleges they otherwise might not have had the opportunity to attend. “I will always hold those moments when they heard about their scholarships close to my heart,” Mrs. Stack said.

Through everything that Mrs. Stack has implemented as CAP Advisor, she was able to help hundreds of students through this tough process and provided them with a life-changing impact. 

“Mrs. Stack is someone we all hold dear in our heart. She is the guardian angel most of us did not know we had; she sure is one to me. Everything I am doing now at the University of Miami, I owe to her because without her support and encouragement I would not be here today. She is among one of the most selfless human beings I have ever met. She always put her students before herself and you could tell that she just wanted every one of us to be happy wherever we decided to go. Gables will truly miss her but a long vacation is something she deserves after dedicated nights, days, and years to her students,” alumni Albany Muria said.

Although she is retiring and is sad to leave Gables behind, she has decided to not leave this part of her life behind as well. Mrs. Stack will be living part-time in Jamaica where she will be taking care of her parents. When she is stateside, she will volunteer at shelters and organizations whose goal is to help students in their college application process and their personal statement essays. 

When asked what advice she would like to leave behind for CGHS students she said, “Do well in high school academically from day one and never let up; get involved; make good friends; ask for help; have fun; work really hard every day; start thinking about college as early as sophomore year,  follow everything your CAP Advisor tells you to do every year of high school to prepare, do 80% of your college stuff your junior year, write really good essays, don’t be afraid to attend a college nobody has ever heard of, apply for scholarships, think outside the box when applying to college, enjoy where you go to college (same advice as for high school^^) and remember – you will grow where you are planted!!”

 Mrs. Driver, who was previously an IB Counselor, was promoted to step in and take charge as the new CAP Advisor. Although the school year has not yet begun, Mrs. Driver has already started working hard on this school year’s upcoming schedule. When interviewing Mrs. Stack, she was asked if she would like Mrs. Driver to continue anything that she has implemented or if she had any advice she would like to leave behind. In response to this Mrs. Stack said, “Good luck my friend, I am here if you need me, and as far as continuing what I implemented, I would say continue what you think works and ditch what does not, new blood is always a good thing so trust yourself. I know you will make me proud.”

While we are deeply saddened by Mrs. Stack’s departure, we are looking forward to the new CAP Advisor working her magic in the CAP Office.

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