From CSF Achiever to CSF College Prep Advisor: Brian's Story

As a College Prep Advisor (CPA) at Evergreen High School in Seattle, Brian Cayalo does everything in his power to help his students succeed. One of the most rewarding aspects of his job is when he sees his students flourish during the time he works with them. He gets to know whem as high school juniors and works alongside them through their senior year, keeping them on track to become fully college-ready.

“A lot of my students have good grades and think they know what they should do next, but they don't have an idea of how to get ready for college,” he says.

Brian knows this because he has been there: He was active in the CSF Achievers program while he was a student at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. This background allows him to bring a unique perpective to his job as a CPA.

“Being a CSF Alumni is beneficial to the students I work with because I relate to their backgrounds and situations," Brian says. "The experiences they have are ones I have also been though, so I know what to expect and how to help my students prepare for higher education.” 

Brian’s parents emigrated from the Philippines looking for a better life. Both worked at a food processor in Tacoma: His dad drove a forklift while his mom worked in the canning plant. During Brian’s senior year in high school, his dad was laid off after the food processor closed their Tacoma plant.

Although Brian was a good student who got high grades, college wasn’t a guarantee. He felt his success was less assured because he didn’t have anyone to help him navigate the path to college. Then he joined CSF’s program and began working with CSF College Prep Advisor Rob Jones.

“I don’t know how I would have continued my post-secondary education had it not been for CSF,” Brian said. “I didn’t know how to apply to college, but Rob told me what I needed to do.”

With the support of Rob and CSF, Brian became the first member of his family to go to college. “My older sister didn’t graduate from high school, so I worked really hard because I wanted to make sure that I was doing what I needed to do to be successful,” he said.

Brian graduated from University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2009. In 2011, he became a CSF College and Career Coach through AmeriCorps at Stuart Middle School and First Creek Middle School in Tacoma before applying for his current position. “I wanted to be on the ground and work with students again,” he said. “It’s a really good fit.”

CSF’s Achievers program has a heavy focus on academic, social, emotional and financial support. Brian says these supports were especially critical for him and are also what makes the CSF Achievers program unique.
“We have career exploration workshops and college visits also help with college fit and what students want to study. But while some days they need help with academics, other days they just need us to show up at their cross country meet,” Brian said. “It’s what makes this program what it is.”

Brian has seen the CSF program make a profound impact for many scholars, including My Linh, who delivered a class speech during her graduation in June 2018. As Brian sat there beaming about how far she had come and how she was ready to take on the world, he heard her say his name.

“She talked about how much she appreciated my help and how she couldn’t have done it without me,” he said. “It was so rewarding to hear how thankful she was.”

Brian was featured on KING 5’s Evening along with Nicole, a scholar who has been active in CSF’s HERO and Achievers programs and aspires to attend Washington State University for a degree in nursing. During the broadcast, Brian and Nicole described the impact and importance of CSF’s work. Watch the CSF feature on KING 5's Evening below.

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