New college adviser Mrs. Rebecca Mendelson first noticed the politeness of AHS students when she would take her son to Chick-Fil-A at a time when many seniors had lunch. “I was pushing my son in the stroller, and no one would hold the door for me. Every time I was at the door, it didn’t matter which Heritage student I saw, they would literally stop their conversations and hold the door for me,” Mrs. Mendelson said.
The manners of Heritage students drew Mendelson to AHS and helped her realize that she wanted to work here. Growing up, Mrs. Mendelson was friends with other kids from Heritage and was always aware of all the kinds of programs offered here and the kinds of students that go here.
“In high school, I was involved in a lot of leadership programs and I had friends who went to Heritage. They would speak about all the different programs and the classes they would take. I thought If I ever have kids, I want them to go to that school and I want to be a part of that environment. Now I’m here so I’m super happy,” she said.
Becoming a college advisor wasn’t her original plan, as she studied hospitality and communications at University of Central Florida.
“I wanted to work for sales and catering. Right when I graduated, I got a job with a big hotel near Miami,” Mrs. Mendelson said. “I came to realize the hours are a lot [since] you work almost every night till late. Schedule-wise, that’s why I went to teaching right after that.”
After her time in hospitality, Mendelson started working as a Kindergarten teacher at a charter school in Coral Springs, then made the transition into advising high school students. Having a master’s degree in psychology, as well as taking courses for teaching, gave her the experience to work with students and adults. Before coming to Heritage, she worked as a counselor at Everglades High School for four and a half years.
A key factor on why Mendelson became a college advisor was that the high school she came from had many first generation students, who didn’t have the same guidance students have today, when it comes to the college process. That fact encouraged her to help students and make sure they have that assistance.
“I’ve always been a helper and I’ve always loved to help people. Just helping students find what they want to study, especially when [they] have no idea, is definitely the most rewarding thing for me,” she said.
After graduating from Piper High School, she decided to stay in state for college at UCF mainly because of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. “I would have looked at other schools besides Florida [had I known what I know now back then] because there’s so many opportunities out of state,” she said. She was inspired by her application experience to educate other students applying for college about different programs and to help them get out of their comfort zones.
Since Mrs. Mendelson started this year in the midst of a pandemic, the transition was difficult and different when compared to a normal scenario. However, the other counselors, college advisors and her students have been very welcoming.
“She and I met in the summer of 2020 through our children; they were both in an activity together and while we waited for them, we started talking,” Director of College Planning Mrs. Sharon Bikondou said. “It turned out that Mrs. Mendelson knew so many people at our school [like] Mrs. Schaefer and Dr. Zaviezo, and everyone spoke highly of her. I liked her tremendously and when we had a job opening, we brought her in right away for an interview. She ended up starting with us in the summer of 2020 and has been a terrific addition to our team. She is a quick learner, always willing to jump in and lend a hand. We can’t wait for students to get to know her more, I think they will like her as much as we do.”
As a guidance counselor, Mrs. Mendelson will go on to work with many students and guide them through the college application process.