Teacher? Check. Leader? Check. Inspiration? Check. Grossmont College counselor Taneisha Hellon is all that and more, making her presence felt at Grossmont College while impacting change not only on campus but also in the lives of her students.
Hellon serves several roles: professional development program co-coordinator whose latest project includes the Grossmont College Equity Institute; faculty advisor to the Grossmont College chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA); leader with the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force; and Grossmont’s Faculty Lead for the GCCCD Board of Trustees’ Reform Strategy to Diversify Hiring.
Above all, though, Hellon is a counselor whose mission involves taking a holistic approach and never forgetting that failure is not an option.
“Our students need more than an academic plan,” she said. “They need to be seen. They need to be listened to. They need to be supported. That’s why I’m here.”
Her lived experiences continue to fuel her passion. Born in San Francisco, Hellon moved with her family to Miami when she was just 4 years old but moved back to California (Sacramento) four years later when Hurricane Andrew destroyed their home. Hellon played basketball at Sacramento City College and initially aspired to become a sports analysis. Those plans changed, however, after meeting her husband, and starting a family.
Inspired by a deep-rooted love of education and her desire to help others achieve an amplified level of success, both personally and academically, is precisely why Hellon opted for a path that would lead her to counseling. Today, she is an equity-minded counselor aware of the barriers that may arise for students, but also helps to acknowledge and celebrate the cultural capital that each student brings with them to college. Her mission: help identify opportunities and provide resources and support, while encouraging students to achieve their specific educational, career, and personal goals.
“Education can unlock opportunities and help you understand your role in the world and the impact you can have,” said Hellon, whose array of internships, a bachelor’s degree in counseling psychology, and a master’s degree in school counseling from Sacramento State University led to eight job offers after completing her studies.
She opted first to work at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento. Her mission: to make a difference.
“As a high school student, I didn’t have the guidance or savvy to understand how to go straight to a four-year college or university, I didn’t know how to apply for financial aid, I didn’t know how to search for schools that offered what I was looking for. I didn’t know how to prepare. At Mira Loma, I had the opportunity to let these high school students know that it’s possible to reach your potential. I had the opportunity to show them what was possible.”
Hellon took that message to Grossmont College some four years ago.
“I realized I needed to be at a community college,” she said. “It’s a transformative time for a lot of our students. Many are just coming into adulthood. Many are coming back to school for the first time in years to help kickstart their career. Many of our students are just seeking the opportunity for personal growth and connection. I wanted to work with people who were looking to find themselves or who were looking for something better.
“It’s heavy work,” she said, “but it’s important work that I am extremely passionate about.”