It Was Something Important

A couple of years after Andrea’s father, someone I’d grown up with, died suddenly, her mother, whom I did not know very well, called me, saying Rob had mentioned often that when the time came, he wanted me to give Andrea advice about college.

“Rob always said you were passionate about college counseling, and he was going to talk to you about helping Andy when the time came.”

I said I’d been a college counselor a long time ago, and I wasn’t sure any insight I could provide would be current enough to be of all that much use.

“Oh, okay,” she said, sounding a little hesitant, “I guess it’s not that important. Andy has college counseling at school, so if you aren’t able to do it, I think we can manage.”

The way she said it, of course, I immediately felt guilty. I told her I’d be happy to talk to Andrea. She was a junior then, and I met her for coffee one afternoon at U.H. Andrea said she’d always wanted to do something in ecology, hoped to work in some way with preservation and restoration of the environment.

It just so happened that a friend’s son was, and still is, an adjunct professor at U.C. Davis. His group’s specialty is looking at ways to protect both the coastal giant redwoods and higher elevation giant sequoias.

I put Andrea in touch with him, and they hit it off well. That summer, before her senior year in high school, she traveled up there for a high school summer internship program that allowed her to work alongside him and his team.

Via email, Andrea let me know that she was loving the experience and that she was sure she wanted to go to Davis to continue doing that kind of work. I was happy for her, but I was apprehensive as well.

One thing I knew about the U.C. System from my old college counseling days was that it’s not easy for non-residents to get into those schools, and that problem, I was fairly sure, still existed. I worried about her having her heart set on that path, and I was sure to let her know that she should apply to more than one college.

Fortunately, as it turns out, Andrea did get into Davis. She majored in ecological management and restoration and went on to earn her Ph.D. at Davis in that same area of specialization. She still works with the same team of people, and I think about her often with all these threats posed by fires over the past several years.

I’m glad I didn’t take a pass on talking to Andrea about college. It’s funny how you never really know what you might do for someone that could actually end up helping them in some way.

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