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The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

Behind the Scenes: CVHS Counselors Chapman and Frau talk life and work

 

CVHS College Counselors, Marcello Frau and Veronica Chapman (Courtesy of Carnegie Vanguard High School)

 

Olympic runners spend months working closely with physical therapists, strength trainers, and even therapists to prepare for the race of their lives. 

For many CVHS seniors, the college application process, especially leading up to that dreaded November 1st deadline, can feel like a marathon at a sprinting pace, and the worst part is, most of them don’t know where to start. That’s where Ms. Chapman and Mr. Frau come in. 

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We had the unique opportunity to step into their cozy, college paraphernalia covered corner of CVHS to find out how they pitch in to set us students on a path to success. Veronica Chapman and Marcello Frau, CVHS’s college counselors, work day and night, (or rather from 8:30 to 4:10), to guide seniors through the dizzyingly complex college application process. And from the moment they step on campus in August, the race is on.

“It is a lot of schedule changes, communicating with parents of ninth graders, going to meetings, scheduling college visits, classroom presentations with students, meeting deadlines, talking about college meetings with students,”  said Chapman.

However, their jobs aren’t limited to teaching students how to fill out the Common Application and reporting their grades. 

Each and every CVHS student gets a chance to choose the courses they want to take, and, (begrudgingly), the courses they have to take. Afterwards, an automated program makes a master schedule to file the thousands of student requests into hundreds of classes. But sometimes, Chapman and Frau work with numerous members of faculty and staff to ensure students are placed in classes that enrich, engage, and educate them and prepare them for the career path of their choice. 

“What we do is we generate what is called a conflict matrix. The point of the conflict matrix is to help them [admin] come up with the ideal placement of courses in a five day week with seven periods a day in order to maximize the choices that every student has to get the courses that they have, that they want to take,” said Frau.

With such a wide range of responsibilities and standards to meet, you can imagine Chapman and Frau are very dedicated to their jobs. We were particularly interested in what inspired them to pursue counseling and even more intrigued by their responses.

For Frau, it was an abrupt move from his childhood home of Kenya to France. 

Mr Frau with his parents, Maria-Luisa and Giuliano. (Courtesy of Marcello Frau)

“In Kenya…I spoke English all the time and Italian in the house. When we moved to France, I did not speak a lick of French and boy, did things go south at that point.”

Dropped not just into a completely new environment, but a completely different country where he didn’t know the language, Frau struggled in school. Despite this, some teachers lent their support and gave him the help he needed to graduate. When thinking of a career path later in life, Frau remembered these early influences.

“The influence of those adults in my earlier life, made it to a point where I actually wanted to be an influence in other people’s lives, teaching in some capacity…I already had a good job in writing and publishing for computer companies, but it wasn’t satisfying for me because… I wasn’t dealing directly with people, and that’s what I missed.”

For Chapman, the inspiration for her career choice hits closer to home; her own guidance counselor.

Ms. Chapman with her husband and her sons, Xavion and Zachary. (Courtesy of Veronica Chapman)

“I grew up in a large family, six brothers and sisters, and I’m First Gen, so nobody in my family had ever gone to college. But I remember when I was in high school, my guidance counselor kept pulling me into her office telling me I could go to college. But, because I had gone to so many different high schools… I only gave her lip service.” 

Despite her unorthodox path, Chapman eventually came around to the idea of applying for college,

“Fast forward a couple years out of high school…I was just working at the mall. And a friend who was going to college was like, ‘You should go to college. It’s fun.’ And I remembered my guidance counselor… I decided, ‘You know what, I think I will apply,’ and the rest is history.”

Like every teacher, there’s always one student, either past or present, that they’ve formed a close bond with, whether for their humor, their love of the class, or just their attitude towards life. We asked which students in particular lingered in their memory and one in particular came to mind for Chapman.

Ms. Chapman with her favorite former student. (Courtesy of Veronica Chapman)

“This student, when I was a counselor at Sharpstown High School,… at the time, she was sleeping on the couch of a lady who her dad had dated. But her dad had been deported…and she had nobody else in America. So, it was just her, on this lady’s couch, coming to high school every day.”

Over time, Chapman formed a close bond with this student and became more than just a college counselor, but a mentor and a source of stability.

“She and I became real good [friends]. I helped her…fill out all the paperwork for college, drove her to college, (which was in Dallas), and, you know, took her to her prom… I kind of adopted her as my daughter somewhat just because I just felt for her,” said Chapman.

It’s that kind of bond, that rare opportunity for true human connection that motivates both Chapman and Frau each and every day. 

“I think…we are the type of people that want to always help students achieve their dreams. We’re the people that sometimes will inspire students to think bigger than their current station in life. Realizing that they have time on their side, that they can really do most anything that they set their minds to. And but as long as your heart is in the right place, things generally always work out.”

And when they’re not inspiring future doctors, lawyers, engineers, and world leaders, Chapman and Frau love stepping outside of their comfort zones. For Frau, a good stroll can set the tone for the day.

“I really like walking…whenever I go anywhere, I always tell people ‘Let’s take the bus, let’s do this, let’s walk here, let’s go there.’ I mean, I love to go miles and miles and miles just walking and seeing things.”

Mr. Frau with his son, Alessandro. (Courtesy of Marcello Frau)

Although he does love his work, everyone needs a little break sometimes. When he’s not spending time with his cats, Pinto Beans and Scamp or his son, Alessandro, Frau loves exploring his more bohemian side through travel.

Frau’s two cats, Pinto Beans (Left) and Scamp. (Courtesy of Marcello Frau)

“I like to travel in a way where I…live like a local individual. I’d like to go to the tuck areas; the little, small Mom-and-Pops places. I’ve gotten sick a few times but you know what, it’s part of the travel experience. That’s just me. I like to keep things simple, just live life the way it is without making things overly complicated.”

Ms. Chapman’s dog, Boss (Courtesy of Veronica Chapman)

On the other hand, Chapman also chooses the path not taken. Although she too loves spending time with her family and her dog, Boss, she will not be put in a box.

“I crochet, I have a couple of different TikTok videos. I like jigsaw puzzles…I also collect stamps and coins…I am a woman of the world. I like to do a lot of different things. If it’s something to do, then I’m going to try it for the most part. I’m adventurous.”

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About the Contributors
Joseph Mutagaya, Arts and Entertaiment Editor
Joseph Mutagaya is a currently a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. He loves acting for Carnegie Theatre, listening to music like SZA, Brent Faiyaz, and Alex G, and playing lacrosse. He loves his two younger siblings, (most of the time), and most of all, he loves writing for the Upstream News!
My-Tran Vo, Managing and News Editor
When My-Tran Vo isn’t testing out a new knife by cutting a salami stick for a midday snack, she’s out taking care of the stray cats she feeds. She sees herself in these cats, with them both being shy and easily cold, they have a special kinship she doesn’t get with other creatures. Though My-Tran loves animals, she can’t ever see herself owning a dog because she likes the idea of them more than the reality of them. My-Tran also believes in people's choices to exist how they want within their bodies without external pressure. She sees her not shaving or wearing bras, not as an act of feminist rebellion, but as something she is just allowed to do for no reasons other than her wanting to and being lazy.
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