New Counselor Mr. Mario Garza Joins La Salle Community


Lillian Paugh

Mr. Garza’s focus is helping support the students who are a part of the San Miguel Scholars program, and he will begin seeing students this week.

Lillian Paugh, Editor

From the time he was in high school, new counselor Mr. Mario Garza recalled not having enough support from his counselors.

Instead, he had to rely on other adults in the community, including his vice principal and his journalism teacher, to help him along the way. And these individuals would inspire his own desire to help guide high school students through counseling.

“I knew I wanted to be like them and make an impact on people,” Mr. Garza said. 

On Monday, Jan. 9, Mr. Garza joined La Salle’s counseling department, alongside counselors Ms. Michelle Berry and Mr. Kevin Doyle and college counselor Ms. Madeleine Hanley, to help further support students. 

Having spent 10 years as a college academic advisor and 15 as a counselor at Woodburn High School, Mr. Garza “always knew [he] wanted to work with students,” he said.

However, he did not initially know that counseling was going to be his career path, as he entered the University of Oregon for his undergraduate degree as a journalism major, switching it a few times before finally landing on English with plans of teaching. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do at the time,” he said. 

After graduating, he left Oregon altogether and headed for the San Francisco Bay area for about four years, where he found work as an advisor at a small Catholic college, then a job in the admissions office at another small college there, before deciding to return to school for two master’s degrees — one in higher education administration and another in counseling.

“But the thing they all had in common was that ability to work with students,” Mr. Garza said.

Encouraged by two of his closest friends who are familiar with Lasallian schools, Mr. Garza interviewed for the open counseling position at La Salle and was offered the job. However, he had to decline it at the time. But upon checking later to see if the position had been filled, he reached out, wondering why no one had taken the job.

Since the beginning of this school year, La Salle has been working to fully staff the counseling department as a result of the effects of the national staffing shortages and the departure of two former counselors after the last school year — a struggle Mr. Garza said he had considered when he eventually reached out to Principal Ms. Alanna O’Brien about the open counseling position and decided that he was able to take it.

“I’m two days in, and I feel like I’ve made a good choice,” Mr. Garza said.

For the few days that Mr. Garza has been set up on campus, he described feeling “wanted,” he said. “I feel from the rest of the counseling team, administrators, teachers that have popped in, other people on staff, I’ve felt like they’re happy to have me here. And that’s a good feeling.”

For the time being, Mr. Garza’s counseling is primarily focused on meeting with students in the San Miguel Scholars program, a piece of the job description that he said made the position all the more compelling to him. Coming from Woodburn High School, Mr. Garza said that many of the students in the program at La Salle come from similar backgrounds as those he worked with previously and are students he feels he can relate to personally. 

“It’s a group of first-generation students coming from various backgrounds,” Mr. Garza said. “That’s important to me because I came from the same background. … So, I think that’s what drew me in.”

His passion for counseling comes from the support he received from both the adults and peers in his life while in school, leading him to his own success and his desire to give others that same experience. “I went on to get my master’s degree, which was a big deal because [for] a lot of people from my background, that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “So I just want students to realize their potential the way that other people helped me realize.”

Looking ahead, Mr. Garza hopes to focus on helping to further evolve the counseling department and strengthen the programs already in place. He also wants to be able to cater to the needs of different students he encounters and “understand what they want and really support that and not tell them what I think they should do,” he said. 

Overall, Mr. Garza believes that the effectiveness of his work at La Salle will ultimately be based on his ability to make himself an important resource to students.

“I think the number one thing is I want the students to value me,” Mr. Garza said. “Because if that happens, then I’m doing something right.”