Journeys: three roads that crossed at counseling
MVHS’s four counselors share the paths they’ve taken that brought them to the counseling profession
January 9, 2020
When counselor Monique Balentine was seven years old, her dream was to be a singing dentist. She enjoyed singing and going to the dentist, so a singing dentist seemed like the natural option.
A few years later, after realizing that being a singing dentist was perhaps not the most sustainable or realistic career option, Balentine decided that she wanted to be a lawyer. She felt that she was reasonably good at forming arguments and that lawyers made good money. Young and eager to choose a career that would allow her to lead a financially comfortable life, Balentine felt that going into law would be the best option for her throughout middle school and the beginning of high school.
However, at one point during her junior year in high school, after learning how long and how much school time she would need to dedicate to pursue law, Balentine decided that becoming a lawyer just wasn’t the right option for her.
During this time, Balentine had been attending classes at middle college, which gave a glimpse into the college lifestyle. She was presented with the opportunity to take a variety of classes, one of which happened to be a psychology course, where she first discovered her passion for the subject.
Balentine also found that people would often ask her for help on their issues and she volunteered at an eldery home throughout high school helping senior citizens with technology, which further helped her realize how much she enjoyed helping others.
“I had a lot of patience and I liked listening to people’s stories,” Balentine said. “So I think a lot of it was also just happenstance. I grew as a person and I learned more about myself and [being a] counselor just felt like the right fit.”
When Balentine applied to college, she had no doubt that she wanted to pursue psychology. She applied to six schools and ended up attending Menlo College. As soon as she started psychology attending classes at Menlo, Balentine knew that she had made the right choice.
“When I went into [the psychology department], I was really with my people,” Balentine said. “I remember taking abnormal psychology and finding all these different things and then I started thinking, ‘Do I have any of these traits?’ and it really helped me to reflect and figure out myself.”
In college, Balentine knew that she wanted to work with children in a school environment. She partially attributes this to her brother’s experience in credit recovery school as a teenager, where his own counselor had been of immense help to him.
My brother is super awesome and cool and I think that in a traditional setting, he just didn’t get exactly what he needed. But his counselor helped him to get to a place where he could thrive and not just ‘be at school’ but be at school, so I think that definitely plays a part in what I decided to do.
— Monique Balentine
“[My brother and I] were both kids where the traditional setting wasn’t exactly for us,” Balentine said. “So I think that definitely plays a role. My brother is super awesome and cool and I think that in a traditional setting, he just didn’t get exactly what he needed. But his counselor helped him to get to a place where he could thrive and not just ‘be at school’ but be at school, so I think that definitely plays a part in what I decided to do.”
After graduating from Menlo College, Balentine attended university in San Diego. She graduated at age 22 after accumulating enough credits to graduate early, and then moved back to the Bay Area to be with her family.
Despite having her sights on being a school counselor, most employers didn’t believe that Balentine was experienced enough to take that job. The first job that Balentine took after graduating was as an aftercare tutor. Because she had to commute to Eastside San Jose for a job that paid her $20 a day, Balentine ended up quitting because the job was not financially sustainable.
After a brief period of unemployment, Balentine found herself working at MVHS as the Study Buddy Society (SBS) coordinator. She also worked in the Mountain View school district as a paraeducator and in the Campbell Union High School District as an instructional assistant in adult education, which totaled to three jobs at the same time.
This period of her journey to becoming a counselor was the most difficult for Balentine. She often found it challenging to be present in all three jobs, a skill that she had to learn but now finds very useful today.
Just because you work three jobs, people don’t really care about that. They want you to be there and to help them so I think that’s kind of a hard part of being a counselor too.
— Monique Balentine
“I think when I worked three jobs at one time it was really hard to make sure that in every job, I was present,” Balentine said. “Just because you work three jobs, people don’t really care about that. They want you to be there and to help them so I think that’s kind of a hard part of being a counselor too. Sometimes I go from one thing to another thing to [another], and you have to be present without forgetting all the things you might need to follow up with. It [was] a lot of multitasking.”
After three years, Balentine found a position in attendance at MVHS, and from there, became a counselor. Balentine’s journey to becoming a counselor was difficult, but she attributed a lot of the experience she gained before she was finally able to become a counselor to the obstacles that she had to face.
“It was definitely a path,” Balentine said. “People were basically like, ‘You don’t have enough experience to be a counselor’ and I was also pretty young. So I went out and worked three jobs to get all the experience that I could. And it was all very beneficial.”
Despite the hardships that the journey to become a counselor presented her, Balentine is thrilled that her dreams of working in a school setting and in psychology have both been realized. Today, her favorite part of counseling is helping other students plan for their futures, just as she had always hoped to do.
“I think the [my] favorite thing is second semester. I love helping to plan for college. I love helping plan for courses next year. So all of that hopes and dreams and fuzzy stuff is my favorite,” Balentine said.