West High School counselor Meagan Holmes did not understand why she was kept out of an assembly Wednesday morning.
"Our new principal, Megan Gregor, was keeping me out," she said. "I didn't know what was going on."
She then noticed her parents, husband and daughters and got suspicious.
Little did Holmes know she was the first Kern County recipient of the Arthur S. Marmaduke Award, an annual award that recognizes an outstanding California high school counselor who demonstrates exemplary skills in helping students fulfill their dreams of going to college, according to a press release. It has been given out since 1985.
"I was so stunned my ears were ringing," she said, hardly believing she received a plaque and $1,500 check. "It was very unexpected. I’m very blessed."
Holmes was nominated by Ryan Coleman, assistant principal of instruction at West High School, and three students wrote letters about her impact on them.
"There are three things that define her — love, family and West High," Coleman said. "Every person she reaches out to is with love, empathy and support, she's devoted to her family ... and West High."
Holmes has been a counselor at West High for 14 years. She previously taught social studies at South and West high schools, and after taking time off to raise her three daughters, she made the decision to go into administration.
"I just love kids, I love my job and I'm passionate about first generation students going to college," she said. "I advocate for children and their families, especially our undocumented."
Holmes is also a counselor for the AVID program, which ensures that all students, especially those who are first generation students or low income, are capable of completing a college preparatory path, according to the West High School AVID website.
During the assembly, Marshall Garcia, a former student, and Rene de la Huerta and Julissa Morales, current students, spoke about how Holmes has encouraged them to pursue their dreams even when times get tough.
"A lot of the students she works with, she opens up these avenues of opportunity and it makes them to think bigger," Coleman said. "She gets students to understand there's so many opportunities in adulthood and she guides them."
"Even when I’m super busy, I always have time for them," Holmes said.
"I love these kids and to hear it from them, it meant a lot to me," she added.