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Milwaukie HS counselor Roberto Aguilar named best in Oregon

The following article is from Clackamas Review.

Roberto Aguilar of Milwaukie High School recently was named the state's school counselor of the year by the Oregon School Counselor Association.

One of the many reasons Aguilar was selected was because of his work helping to close the achievement gap for MHS's Hispanic students.

Often people erroneously think it is necessary to modify requirements in order to close the achievement gap with students of color. Aguilar recognizes that all students are capable of equal success, and some students may only require a bit more help in reaching achievements.

Oregon's counseling association recognized Aguilar for promoting a pro-graduation and college-going atmosphere at MHS. Aguilar, who is Latino, was a first-generation college student himself.

Aguilar coordinates two programs that have a direct impact on graduation and college-entrance rates for students of color. Most months he attends the Padres Latino Mustangs parent group's regular meetings to share information about GPAs and other requirements for getting into college.

In addition, a diverse group of 10 MHS students each year graduates from a rigorous two-year mentoring program called the Educational Credit Management Corp. (ECMC) Scholars, which allows them to access up to $6,000 in financial aid for college. MHS won its first ECMC Scholars grant in 2007, and Aguilar took over the annual program in 2009.

Students have to apply for the program in their sophomore year. Working with an ECMC Scholars adviser, they spend their junior and senior years building social and study skills to pursue higher education. At the end of the two-year program, 10 students out of the 20-student cohort are selected for $6,000 in scholarships. Since 2008, ECMC has provided $4.74 million to 790 students in Oregon alone — on average, 80 students per year from eight high schools across the state.

Aguilar has organized a signing night for MHS students recently accepted to college and a tour of cap-and-gown graduates marching through local elementary schools. He puts up college posters signed by recent graduates throughout the halls of MHS.

"Before Mrs. Obama, I was believing in that 100 percent," Aguilar said. "I want everyone supporting the decision and commitment to go to college."

MHS's four-year graduation rate went down slightly, from 76.1 to 73.3 between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. Aguilar pointed out that taken together with the large increase in graduation rate at the Milwaukie Academy of the Arts, which is part of the same campus, the total MHS graduation rate remained at about 76 percent. When the 2016-17 numbers come out in January, Aguilar expects that MHS graduation numbers again will increase.

Aguilar is a parent of two children, and his wife also is a school counselor. He was the head MHS boys' soccer coach from 2007-15, during which time, more Spanish-speaking athletes became involved on the team and interested in getting athletic college scholarships.

Aguilar's kids attend schools in the Rex Putnam High School feeder area.

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