- Alisal Union School District
Karen Verduzco — Cultivated in Alisal
School Counselor, Dr. Martin Luther King, JR.; Jesse G. Sánchez
Karen Verduzco is one of the first school counselors hired to serve Alisal Union School District students full time, and for her, it's like returning home.
“It feels like a full circle,” she said. “A lot of the families I see, a lot of the families I’ve served and met are families just like mine.”
Not long ago, Ms. Verduzco was a student at one of the schools where she now works — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy. There she attended 5th and 6th grades after the school had opened. For kinder through fourth grade she attended Virginia Rocca Barton.
“Throughout my time in Alisal, I was mainly in bilingual classes, up until 5th grade. I have always been a studious and determined student, however, I enjoyed socializing....My teacher/parent conferences for the most part stated that I was doing well in my studies, but that I was a social butterfly.”
It hasn't been long since Ms. Verduzco left the district to go on to middle school, and she remembers all her teachers names: Ms. Clemente in Kinder; Ms. De León in first, Ms. Aranda in second, Ms. Vargas in third, Ms. Grainger in fourth, Ms. Quaid in fifth, Mr. Thompson in sixth.
The proud daughter of immigrants, Ms. Verduzco said her parents always “tried to be involve somehow in my schooling, whether it was volunteering in a school activity/ field trip or helping me in my homework or finding a relative/neighbor to help me with my homework. When I went to Alisal, there wasn’t much extracurricular activities ( or maybe my family wasn’t aware of them). I am glad that today we have so different programs that students can be involved in, there’s a little bit for everyone.”
Ms. Verduzco attended La Paz Middle School and then North Salinas High after her family moved to a different area of Salinas. The move made her step out of her confort zone, and for college she ended up receiving a full scholaship for Cal State University Monterey Bay.
Although she started out majoring in physical therapy, she also wanted going into teaching but was discouraged from following that route based on the financial outlook of the profession at the time. Instead, she ended up obtaining a B.A. In health and human services with a concentration on social work and a minor in Spanish language.
By then, Ms. Verduzco knew she wanted to either be a counselor of a teacher. She had been working as a Mini-Corps tutor for a few years, but she wasn't sure teaching was her route.
At a Mini-Corps conference, after seeing a presentation by the program director Dr. Ruiz, she decided she wanted to pursue a master's degree in counseling.
Ms. Verduzco graduated in Dec. 2017 and soon after was hired to join Alisal Union School District as one of its first counselors. The district has now six counselors and there are plans to eventually hire six more.
“I feel like I’ve never left and that's an advangate,” Ms. Verduzco said. “It’s a rewarding job in the sense I enjoy what I do and the community and the families that I serve. This is my community, this is the people I grew up with. A lot of the struggles these students deal with, I probably dealt them them too... I am proud to be a product of Alisal and I hope to assist in cultivating the future products of Alisal, porque 'lo que siembras, cosechas'.”
Note: This is the sixth installment of "Cultivated in Alisal: Homegrown Heroes," a first attempt at documenting and celebrating the history of Alisal Union School District. For more information and other profiles, click here. To submit your name to be profiled, click here.