Category Archives: CDI

CDI Launches New Website

Hello blog readers! CDI has recently launched a revised website over at We’re now hosting the CDI blog on that new site–right here. That means we will no longer post on this site. So please follow the link to our new website. You can still subscribe to the blog, and the process to do so is easy. Just click on the orange “blog” icon beside “subscribe to RSS Feed” and follow the prompts. Once you set up the RSS subscription, you’ll get a blog post in your inbox every time we post!

Thank you, as always, for following our blog!

Scholar Check-in: Julie Kwong

Princeton University, Freshman

After the week long fall break, I came back to Princeton and the ball started rolling again. I continued to work on the essay I started before break and started some research in the university archive library for a paper about after-the-fact opposition to coeducation at Princeton in the early 1970s. It is so amazing that we have access to the university’s primary artifacts from its history!

This week has been relatively manageable in terms of school work; however, the spring course offerings are now released! While this is very exciting, it is difficult to choose courses that will create a reasonable schedule and the question always seems to be whether or not I am choosing the right classes and really taking advantage of the “exploration” process. Currently, though, I am considering taking an introductory Computer Science course, Psychology, and American Studies. Luckily, before anything becomes official, I have a meeting scheduled with my academic adviser next week to discuss my schedule and plans.

On another note, it snowed on campus last week! There was a good 3-4 inches, enough for people to have snowball fights, make snow angels, and even create life-size snowmen! The campus looked beautiful; it was definitely an exciting time for everyone as it was the first snow of the year!

I have gradually gotten closer to the members in my CSA family and have even begun to talk to my classmates outside of class. I agree this is a slow process, but I am happy my friend circle is expanding. Additionally, I applied to become a tutor at a community tutoring company. The manager verified that I was qualified to be a member of their team, so as of now, I am waiting for them to process my paperwork and match me with a client. I can’t wait! Again, I feel so grateful to be going to this school; yesterday, I went to see “The Lion King” on Broadway, which turned out to be a spectacular show as we got superb seats near the stage! There is such a great balance between academic and social life. We have a lot of work to do, but we have many opportunities to relax as well. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family, friends, teachers, CDI counselors, and the Princeton community for allowing me the chance to learn at such a fantastic institution in all respects.

Scholar Check-in: Julie Kwong

Julie and her friends at Princeton.

Princeton University, freshman

Since my last weekly check-in, I have been preparing myself for the mid-terms which took place on October 26. I had mid-terms in both Spanish and Introduction to Architectural Thinking on that day. While I should have started studying for it earlier, I dedicated an adequate amount of time for each class 2-3 nights before to prepare study guides for myself leading up to the exam. Luckily, my Introduction to Architectural Thinking exam was open note, and on the day of the exam, I felt confident because I had prepared a comprehensive guide to all of the concepts we had learned in that class. After taking those exams, I realized that every assignment and every discussion in class is related to the ultimate exam. The practice we get in homework and classwork assignments as well as the topics and pictures displayed in the readings all will help with the exam. I will definitely keep this in mind over the next four years. After the exams, we had a fall break for a week from Oct 26 through Nov 4. Hurricane Sandy had a huge impact on the Princeton community. I heard that a lot of surrounding neighborhoods lost power for many days as well as experienced severe damage due to the storm. The Princeton campus lost several trees and closed its campus for a few days. I am glad I was home with my family during this big storm and have enjoyed a great week with friends. I will be coming back home for Thanksgiving Break! The school will be providing a bus at a low cost to take us back home for the short, but important break. I have really grown attached to my Princeton home, though, and can’t wait to return!

In general, I have made two really close friends on campus and am very grateful to have them. I met one of them on my camping trip and the other lives in the same building. Honestly, I can’t say if I would be enjoying campus life the same without them because we practically do everything together (eat meals, go to events, retrieve free food, explore the surrounding neighborhood, and even study!). While I haven’t made a lot of friends on campus, I am happy to have these close friends by my side. Also, I really like my roommates. We all get along and have had no problems with each other in terms of violation of our Roommate Agreement. I am really grateful to have these people with me while I am so far away from home.

An Interview with CDI’s new Executive Vice President, Dr. Rachel Mazyck

Dr. Rachel Mazyck

CDI welcomes new Executive Vice President Rachel Mazyck to the fold. She joins CDI after spending two years on the Chief Academic Officer’s team in the Baltimore City Public Schools. Among other duties, she oversaw strategic planning and teacher professional development across the schools in the district. Dr. Mazyck graduated with Highest Distinction and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar. After spending two years as a Teach for America teacher in Indianola, Mississippi, she earned a Masters in Education from Harvard. She then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a D.Phil. in Education and serving as a Junior Dean at Oxford’s Harris Manchester College. With her distinguished background, Dr. Mazyck is an excellent fit for CDI and will no doubt be an inspiration for our Scholars. Today, her first at CDI, she answers a few questions for blog readers.

CDI has been helping Scholars successfully find their way since 2005. What is your vision for CDI’s future? 

I am excited to join the CDI team; so much good work has been done already! My vision includes making sure that we have codified all the good practices that make CDI successful. I look forward to supporting the expansion of CDI to reach a broader group of students, with our systematized approach captured in a clear and concise way.

What are some of the challenges you foresee with that vision?

One of the things that makes CDI so special is the individualized approach that the counselors and tutors take with each student.  It can be a challenge to maintain that quality of tailored support as a program expands, but that individualized attention is essential to making CDI work.  I am committed to working with the team to maintain the core values that make CDI great.

Now that CDI has been around long enough to see Scholars graduate from college, we will have an ever-expanding alumni network each year. How do you hope to harness the energy and enthusiasm of our graduates?

I am so excited about the CDI alumni!  I’ve had the opportunity to speak with several CDI college graduates, and I look forward to bringing them together and hearing their thoughts on how CDI can continue to support them. I have been dreaming about an alumni network where CDI graduates can get advice, discover job opportunities, connect current Scholars with internships, serve as mentors for current Scholars, and help us refine our model so that each year our Scholars are better prepared for success in college.  Those are my dreams, but I would love to hear from both current CDI Scholars and graduates about what their vision for an alumni network might entail.  If you have some ideas, please get in touch!

CDI Honors 2012 Graduates at Bon Voyage Party

On August 4th, CDI honored its graduating Scholars at the Bauer Community Center in Rockville, MD. In past years, this event–known as the Bon Voyage party–celebrated our high school Scholars. This year, with our second class of Scholars graduating from college, we revised the format to include all of our graduates. Watch the slideshow!

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Scholar Portrait: Francisco Barrera

Francisco in front of the classroom.

When he moved to the United States from El Salvador in 2002, CDI Scholar Francisco Barrera (CDI class of 2007) faced a difficult transition. As a native Spanish speaker, he often found himself struggling to understand his teachers at Wheaton High School. In his own words, he felt “intimidated and uncomfortable” whenever he was asked to solve problems on the board. His ESOL classes helped, but outside of the classroom, adjusting to life in his new, faster-paced country tested him. As a result, his grades suffered and he ended his freshman year in disappointing fashion.

At home, however, Francisco had a powerful ally in his mother, Rosa. She had been unable to complete her own schooling back home in El Salvador, but she knew the value of a solid education, and she worked long hours to give Francisco and his siblings every opportunity to study. She told them, “There are many paths you can take in life, but only educating yourself guarantees success.” Though his freshman year results had been discouraging, he took his mother’s words to heart.

With her encouragement, Francisco enrolled in Honors and AP courses during his sophomore year. He expected his grades to drop, but instead found that the more difficult classes actually stimulated him. Determined to succeed, he worked hard and his grades soon began to improve, and he became an Honor Roll student his final three years. At the same time, he participated in clubs like Wheaton Works and the Vietnamese Club, ran cross country and track, and joined the tennis team, where he worked his way to 2nd singles his senior year. Outside of school he volunteered at the Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity, serving 360 hours of community service as a mentor and translator for immigrant families.

But what Francisco wanted more than anything was to go to college. Through their excited interest, his science teachers had shown him how to love the subject, and now he wanted to do the same for others. Unfortunately, even with his excellent transcript, he didn’t know how to make that goal a reality. At CDI, Francisco learned how to prepare for the SAT, how to create a college list and apply to colleges, and how to get the most scholarships and financial aid. Thanks to the one-on-one mentoring he received from CDI counselors, Francisco was accepted at six colleges—Randolph Macon, St. Mary’s, University of Vermont, Dickinson, Hood, and Goucher—and was offered $162,000 in financial aid.

“CDI taught me that I had options,” he says. “I got a full ride at Goucher through its Educational Opportunity Program for minority students. Without CDI I would not have known about that program.”

Francisco and his students.

Today, Francisco is one of CDI’s first seven college graduates. With a B.A. in Biology from Goucher College, he is fulfilling his dream, teaching 7th and 8th grade Science at Southwest Academy Magnet School in Baltimore County. Because of the support he received from his mother, he knows how important it is for adults to stress education, and he’s taking that message to the next generation. In the classroom, he challenges his students through hands-on activities that generate interest in the topic, as his teachers had once lit a spark in him. Taking a page out of the CDI playbook, he wants his students to make discoveries by themselves, knowing that in order for them to succeed they need to be fully invested in their own education—building a strong foundation, one brick at a time.

Just like Francisco.

A version of this post originally appeared in CDI’s Winter Newsletter.

CDI Class of 2013 at the Winkler Botanical Preserve

Many thanks to Jodie Smolik and the incredible staff at the Winkler Botanical Preserve. CDI’s Class of 2013 Scholars and the counselors enjoyed quite a day today, ziplining, rope climbing, and playing something called Capture the Chicken. Here are some photos. Have a great weekend!

CDI at the Rock N’ Roll Marathon-Health and Fitness Expo

On Thursday, March 15th the CDI team and 16 CDI Scholars volunteered at the Rock N’ Roll Marathon-Health and Fitness Expo at the DC Armory.  2013 Scholars, 2012 Scholars, and College Scholars all participated in this community service event. The Health and Fitness Expo is where runners go to pick up their race bibs, T-shirts, and goodie bags. Each of the volunteers gave runners their bibs and answered a variety of race questions. With thousands of people running the marathon, half marathon, and relays, the Scholars were all very busy helping the runners get their gear. They volunteered from 3:15p.m.-7:15p.m. and returned back to the CDI office around 8:00p.m.

The race organization graciously donated $5 to CDI per volunteer. With all the Scholars who participated, we were able to raise $95. Both Scholars and counselors had a great time volunteering for this event and hope to participate again next year.

Here are a few pictures from the Expo!

New Scholar Kevin Iglesias


New Scholar Thyra Thanos


Class of 2012 Scholar Rundell Douglas

Community Service Event: Volunteer & Raise Money for CDI

Rock N’ Roll USA Marathon Race Crew

When: Thursday, March 15, 2012  from 3pm-7pm

Location: DC Armory

**CDI will pick up High School Scholars from school and provide transportation to the event!

Potential volunteer positions:  registration, t-shirts, swag bags, greeters, souvenir store

Please go to  to register. This is CDI’s own personal link. You will be asked to create your own username and password. If you note that you are under the age of 18, a waiver form will be sent when you create an account and sign up to volunteer. Please have your parent or guardian sign this form and bring it with you when you volunteer.

The organization will make a donation of $5 per volunteer to CDI, which means the more volunteers we bring, the better the donation (for 20 volunteers, the donation would be $100; for 30 volunteers, it would be $150.)

Here is a link for more information . Please let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to invite friends and family. We need as many volunteers as we can get!

An Interview with Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Ph.D.

Dr. Holcomb-McCoy

Credit: Alvin McCoy

CDI counselor Rachel Jones recently asked Dr. Holcomb-McCoy, a professor and Chair of the Department of Counseling at Johns Hopkins University, a few questions. (Dr. McCoy’s complete bio is below.) An excerpt from this interview appears in the Winter 2012 issue of CDI’s quarterly newsletter, Milestones.

Q: How would you characterize challenges in the college counseling profession today, as opposed to ten years ago?

I believe the challenges in college counseling are probably the greatest they have been in the history of the U.S.  First of all, a majority of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. require a bachelor’s degree or more and President Obama has stated that by 2016, four out of ten new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training.  With this new trend in job skills, it is imperative that all students have access to college (2 or 4 year) or some type of post-secondary training.  No longer can we assume that students will be able to have productive careers/jobs (jobs that provide enough in salary to support a family) with a high school diploma.  This is quite different than it was ten years ago.

Not only has the need for post-secondary training/education increased, but the population of kids who need to be prepared for college and beyond is more diverse than ever before.  For instance, Latino student enrollment in many states has tripled over the past ten years. The ethnic, cultural, economic, and linguistic diversity of students requires that college counselors be able to effectively counsel students within different cultural contexts and within the framework of different cultural expectations.  In many cases, familial norms  and what some would call “traditional families” no longer exist… requiring that college counselors be more aware and accepting of student and family differences.

And probably the most significant challenge in college counseling is the extensive and persistent gap between low income and high-income students who attend college.  Despite financial aid expenditures, the gap still persists.  Improving students’ academic preparation and developing college-going cultures in schools (particularly middle and high schools in low-income communities and high minority communities) are challenges that school-based college counselors face everyday.  Turning schools from “drop-out factories” and “graduation-only high schools” to “college prep schools” is a major challenge for the school counseling profession.  There is a need for school counselors to be trained to do this kind of work and to know how to work with other stakeholders (administrators, teachers, etc.) to turn schools around.

Q: What are some skills, traits, and values an effective college counselor should have? 

I believe an effective college counselor should be, first and foremost, knowledgeable of the college application process (including financial aid, selecting the right college for diverse students, how to involve parents in the process, etc.).  Secondly, an effective college counselor should be patient, persistent, organized, inquisitive, and have good interpersonal skills.  Third, a good college counselor should be culturally competent and responsive.  Given the diversity of students in today’s schools, counselors must be able to work openly and genuinely with all students, regardless of their cultural, linguistic, or economic background.  And last, a good college counselor should embrace the notion and need for “equity” in today’s schools and communities.  Equality is a long-term goal, but equity must be addressed first.  We can’t treat all students equally  until all students begin with the same resources and skills.  Treating existing students with unequal resources equally will only result in persistent unequal results.  Good counselors understand this concept!

Q: What are three key ingredients in improving college advising for low-income, first-generation to college students?

1. Relationships.  All students should have at least one solid and nurturing relationship with a key person that can provide accurate knowledge about  the college application process, course-taking that can lead to college admission, etc.

2.  Parent Involvement.  Increasing parents’ knowledge of college-going, applications, etc.   Counselors and parents need to work together (true partners), respect each other, and have good long-term relationships.

3. Early college counseling/advising…we can’t wait until high school to begin talking about college.  College advising and/or “college talk” should begin in elementary school or even earlier!

Q: A 2008 Pell study highlights that only 11% of low-income, first-generation to college students who matriculate in college graduate within six years. What are some of the challenges these students face, and how can they be better supported?

College completion, along with college access/admission, is also a major challenge for college counselors.  Once students enroll in college, it is difficult to retain them (particularly low-income students and students of color).  I believe that there should be some type of counseling and coaching for high school graduates during the summer between high school and college. Instead of ending the counseling relationship at the end of high school, the relationship should continue over that critical summer.  High school counselors and college-based counselors (particularly at community colleges) should work together to plan students’ freshman year.  I believe we are missing an important transition point….and there is a need for K-12 counselors and higher education counselors to work together, whenever possible so that students make this transition seamlessly.

Q: What are some critical areas in ongoing professional development for college counselors?

1.  Cultural responsiveness and cultural competence.  Counselors ability to work with diverse groups of students…including but not limited to ethnic, academic, economic, and cultural diversity.  Counselors need to  continuously work on moving beyond their  biases, stereotypes, and misconceptions of who is “college material.”

2.  Financial aid awareness.  More awareness of FAFSA forms and the limitations of completing these forms.  Increased knowledge of scholarships.

3.  Integrating college preparation, advising, awareness into the high school curriculum for all students (not just students in advanced classes, college prep classes).

4.  Developing and sustaining partnerships with colleges and universities, particularly admissions departments/offices.

5. Learning about professional organizations that specialize in college counseling (e.g., NACAC).

Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services at Johns Hopkins University.  She has written over 50 articles in refereed national journals and is the author of School Counseling to Close the Achievement Gap: A Social Justice Framework for Success. She has served as guest editor for the Professional School Counseling journal and is currently one of the Associate Editors of the Journal for Counseling and Development. Visit her website.