It was a year and a half ago when South East High School’s College Center received a welcome addition to the team. Today, she’s left campus but she’s also left a message engrained in the minds of all students: “You can go to college.”
Liliana Ochoa-Springer is her name. It’s a familiar one with students involved in the USC TRiO Educational Talent Search program. As the former senior academic advisor for the program, she’s been the one reminding students about deadlines and scholarship opportunities, among other things.
September 2015 signaled the birth of a beautiful relationship between Ochoa-Springer and the students at South East. Her arrival to the campus marked the fourth and final TRiO-involved school she would work at.
It was a welcome change, not only for the students but Ochoa-Springer as well.
“South East is very different from all the other schools I’ve worked at. There’s a college-going culture here and it’s amazing,” she said.
Ochoa-Springer has made it her mission to help upperclassmen and underclassmen figure out their plans for the future.
“I can really relate [to these students] because that’s my background, too. I come from a low-income, first-generation family,” she said.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ochoa-Springer attended Garfield High School, a school with similar demographics– but that’s where the similarities end for her.
“The thing about Garfield and [South East] is – it’s like the same atmosphere, but when I was in high school, there wasn’t a college-going culture.”
The College Center, College Counselor Ms. Barnes, and the Peer College Counselors are a big part of the college-going culture and have alleviated much of Ochoa-Springer’s workload and stress. It allowed Ochoa-Springer to make her job a lot more collaborative.
A big fan of the college admissions process, Ochoa-Springer takes pride in helping students figure out their future. Despite the culture, some students expressed unfavorable opinions about college, saying they won’t attend. However, Ochoa-Springer maintained her signature optimistic attitude throughout the long journey with these students.
“You just do your best, but ultimately, it’s always gonna be the student’s decision, the choice. I always give it my best wherever I am, regardless of the situation. It definitely makes it harder, but you have to do your best,” she said. Ochoa-Springer wants students who grew up with her background to succeed in life and for her, that begins with an education.
Her persistence and dedication to students, primarily seniors, have made Ochoa-Springer a remarkable personality on campus, and as such, she has been embraced by many students.
Diego Holguin and Andrea Soria, Peer College Counselors and seniors in the Visual and Performing Arts small school, have been a part of the TRiO program since their freshman year and Ochoa-Springer has been with them many steps along the path to college.
“When Liliana took over [junior year], she made sure we were on top of everything. She’s been integral to [the college search] and she’s been the most prominent college advisor,” said Holguin.
Many juniors and seniors are no strangers to the excess amount of emails sent by the TRiO staff and as many of them have learned, Ochoa-Springer is a big fan of communicating through email. Unlike “most people,” Soria found the waves of emails helpful; through the emails, she learned the importance of communication.
“In the end, it all motivates you. I know people say ‘You have to be you own motivation,’ but sometimes, you still need that one person behind you, pushing you, and that’s been Liliana,” said Soria.
In the time they’ve known Ochoa-Springer, Holguin and Soria learned there’s more to her than meets the eye.
“From the start, I was able to tell she really cares for people. You can tell when a person is doing a job or something for the money and you can tell when a person’s there because of the students, because of the people and Liliana has always been here for us,” said Soria.
Holguin not only admires Ochoa-Springer’s kind personality but her fashion choices as well.
“She’s really fashionable. Her job is more professional but on more casual days, her outfits are really welcoming and she’s has this really cool vibe to her that she expresses through her clothing,” said Holguin.
When working a job that is more professional, there are expectations to wear some boring suit or pantsuit, but “it’s fun to step out of those limits and I think she stepped out of those limits quite often.”
“One day she was wearing jeans and some really cute brown boots,” said Holguin. He also referred to the outfit Ochoa-Springer wore on her last day: “I was here for it.”
After a year and a half working at South East, Ochoa-Springer departed USC TRiO ETS, but she continues to help students (and slay with style) through her work at the USC Office of Admissions– the next step in her career.
While Ochoa-Springer has left the Home of the Jaguars, her work has left lasting impressions and memories on students, many of which are now on the path to a higher education.
Liliana, on behalf of all TRiO students, thank you for reminding us that a higher education is within our reach! We are grateful for your continued support and guidance! Once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar!