About SJA’s School Counseling Department

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Overview of Counseling Services

At Saint Joseph Academy, Guidance is an integral part of the total education program. The Guidance Program is developmental and outcome-based in nature, taking as its foundation the Saint Joseph Academy philosophy of dedication to the total formation of our students, including spiritual, intellectual personal, social, and physical development. To this end, the mission of the Guidance Program is to conduct activities designed to respond to the normal developmental needs of all students in the areas of academic, personal, and social growth. These activities are part of a structured developmental curriculum that is organized around two major areas: (1) personal development, including academic, social, emotional, and spiritual growth; and (2) college and career planning preparation. In addition, the Guidance Department provides support services for parents.

Individual counseling is provided to students for both personal and academic concerns. Grade level counselors work closely with all students at every level to help them deal with the typical challenges of adolescence. Personal attention and professional guidance are the hallmarks of a program that is based on the Marist values of family spirit and presence.

Group counseling programs include personal growth for boys and girls as well as co-ed groups for grief counseling. In addition, counselors moderate the Positive Peer Leadership Team which provides students with opportunities to promote responsible decisions and the avoidance of substance use among their peers.

Student Advocate Center

The mission of the Student Advocate Center is to provide all Saint Joseph Academy students with the support that they need to achieve academic success. The Center’s mission is to help all students become academically strong, competent, and confident. The Student Advocate works individually with students who could benefit from additional academic support, help them develop study skills and organizational strategies, arranging for tutoring with school staff members, and, if necessary, referring them for additional help or evaluation.  Students may be referred to the Student Advocate Center by teachers or parents, or they may simply stop by Room 107.

College and Career Counseling Program

As a college preparatory school, Saint Joseph Academy provides comprehensive program of college and career counseling that involves students in all grade levels. In the Middle Division, counselors meet with students to discuss college and career options. Students in the 7th grade have the opportunity to participate in the Duke University Talent Identification Program for gifted students. Students in the 8th grade take an age-appropriate career assessment, the Career Key, which helps them become more self-aware and begin to consider possible careers of interest. Students in 9th and 10th grade take additional Career Interest Profile assessment that allow them to identify their interests and the types of work activities and careers that match their skills. All students in grades 8 through 11 take the PSAT each October to begin preparing for the SAT college entrance exam.  Counselors meet with students, parents, and faculty to interpret scores and plan strategies for SAT practice.

In the 11th grade, the college application process begins in earnest, when college counselors meet with students and parents in family conferences to get each student started on their individualized college application process. The Guidance Department also works with students in classrooms and hosts an evening meeting for parents to provide information on how to help their children prepare to apply to college.

In the 12th grade, the college counseling staff works closely with each individual student throughout every phase of the application process to ensure that all students have the help they need to find the best college fit for them. In addition, the department sponsors meetings for parents on college applications and financial aid and hosts many college admission representatives for school visits each year. In September, the Guidance Department sponsors an annual College Fair for all high school students and their parents to help students connect personally with their colleges of interest. A Career Day is held every two years for high school students to meet with professionals from the community to learn firsthand about career options. In alternate years, the department sponsors a College Student Forum, during which SJA graduates return to campus to answer questions about their college experience and advise students about how to prepare for college.

Since the college selection process is a complex one involving the entire family, the Guidance Department strives to provide an array of college and career services which lead up to the selection of colleges by seniors.  The Naviance digital platform is used as the primary vehicle by which students from 8th through 12th grades can investigate colleges and scholarships, and by which the department can communicate through email with students and parents about college opportunities, summer programs, scholarship possibilities, and a variety of information relevant to the student.  Students and parents can log on to Naviance at

Guidance Department Staff

Mrs. Olga Cisneros, M.Ed., Guidance Counselor; College Counselor

Mrs. Cisneros is the counselor for students in grades 11 and 12, providing individual, group, and grief counseling for academic, personal, or social concerns. She coordinates the Iowa Assessments each fall and aids students and faculty in the interpretation of test results. She also is a college counselor assisting juniors and seniors with college applications, financial aid, and scholarships.

Contact Mrs. Cisneros at or 956-542-3581, Ext. 354


Mrs. Stephanie Machinena, Guidance Counselor

Mrs. Machinena is the counselor for students in Grades 7 and 8, helping them make the transition from elementary school and preparing them for their move to high school. She provides individual, group, and Horizons grief counseling, working with students as they face academic, personal, or social challenges. Mrs. Machinena coordinates the Duke Talent Identification Program and career assessment testing for 8th grade students.

Contact Mrs. Machinena at or 956-542-3581, Ext. 335


Mrs. Vilma Wolfe, M.Ed., Guidance Counselor; College Counselor

Mrs. Wolfe works with 9th and 10th grade students, providing individual, group, and grief counseling for academic, personal, or social concerns. She coordinates career assessment for 9th and 10th grade students and helps students with early college planning. As a college counselor she assists juniors and seniors with college applications, financial aid and scholarships. Mrs. Wolfe is also a moderator for the Positive Peer Leadership Team (PPLT) and coordinates all activities related to Red Ribbon Week and monthly community service.

Contact Mrs. Wolfe at or 956-542-3581, Ext. 353


Ms. Lindsay Irwin, M.Ed., Director of Guidance; Student Advocate; College Counselor

As Student Advocate, Ms. Irwin works directly with students who are experiencing academic difficulties. These may include students who are new to SJA, those for whom English is a second language, or any student who would like help with study skills, time management, or tutoring.Ms. Irwin is also is a member of the college counseling staff, assisting juniors and seniors with college applications, financial aid, and scholarships. Outside of the Guidance Office, Ms. Irwin directs the SJA Girls’ Choir and Liturgy Choir.

Contact Ms. Irwin at or 956-542-3581 Ext. 318. The Student Advocate Center is located in Room 107.


Reference Materials:

Useful Links:

Through Naviance, students and parents can access the SJA College App Document Library at › From Your School › Document Library › College App Docs.

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