Byanca Barajas: A local girl
Counselor,teacher, community activist and Santa Monica College alumni; those are some of the words that describe Byanca Barajas.
One of SMC's athletic counselors, Barajas grew up in West Los Angeles and attended Santa Monica High School. After graduating, she continued her academics at SMC where she had a short stint playing soccer for the Lady Corsairs.
“I loved it at SMC," said Barajas. "I started in '99 and played soccer for a year. The following year, I started working full time and attending school at night, so I wasn’t able to continue playing, but I can relate to the athletes. I think that’s sort of what drives me to help them."
After SMC, Barajas transferred to California State University, Northridge where she earned a bachelor’s degree and eventually a master’s degree in counseling. While earning her master’s in counseling at CSUN, Barajas got her first taste of the counseling profession back where she started at SMC, concurrently working as a counseling aide at the SMC Latino Center.
“I majored in child development and interned and worked with high school students at the Pico Youth and Family Center," she said. "I found I enjoyed working with students who needed help applying for college and financial aid.”
Aside from being an athletic counselor, Barajas also teaches a counseling student success seminar on campus. She also helps to spearhead community service efforts, corresponds with former students, and works part time for a local law firm.
“What I’m trying to do right now is make a difference at SMC in terms of the athletics counseling department," said Barajas. "I’m working with some students to create a program that goes out and does community service. Students are actually coming and asking me about it, so we’re going to be working on that soon.”
What Barajas does for the student-athletes at SMC varies, but preparing them academically for the next step in their collegiate careers is one of her main objectives.
“My goal is to help each one of the student-athletes meet their goals," said Barajas. "I try to focus on their needs. We have students who come from other universities who have played sports and either want to go back, didn’t like it, or didn’t do well academically, but want to get back to that level. I try to make sure they’re academically able to do that.”
By being an athletic counselor, Barajas has unique access to the coaches and administrators of numerous Division I athletic programs.
“I have a lot of coaches from universities that are constantly contacting me,” she said.
When teaching in the classroom, Barajas gives the extra effort and attention to her students. She responds to each student’s weekly journal entries, and hopes to form bonds that may endure through students' college years and beyond.
“They have to give me a journal entry every week and I respond to each student," she said. "I’ve done that since my first semester teaching and I feel I’ve made a lot of connections with students. Even after they leave, they continue to contact me to see how I’m doing and tell me how they’re doing. I really like that."
Now in her fourth year as a counselor, Barajas has made a name for herself in the community where she grew up. Although she has numerous responsibilities, she hopes to find time to continue her former passion.
“I love athletics," said Barajas. "I used to play soccer in Hermosa and Manhattan Beach in my spare time, but to be honest, I work a lot. I have been thinking about it lately."