Avi Fernandez is Making Special Connections with the San Rafael Community


Dylan Solis Pereira, Contributor

Avi Fernandez is a high school counselor at San Rafael High School and in the future wants to be a thrift store owner of An Idea, which is the name she’d give the store. Fernandez is a piano player, singer, and staff for a youth group for the New Life Church in Novato. Fernandez has worked at SRHS for a total of 5 years, 3 of those years being a school counselor and the other 2 as a college and career advisor.

Fernandez previously attended the youth group that she loves to contribute to. She would go to youth groups and her youth leaders/mentors would take her shopping and they would create special bonds with each other. This connection she made with her mentors and the people around her, is the reason why Fernandez is who she is today. These connections and bonds she had with her mentors and community influenced her to be “that kind of leader, mentor, and school counselor.”

Coming from Lima, Peru at the age of 5, Fernandez made her journey to the United States in search of more opportunities and a better chance at a better life. With the absence of her father, Fernandez and her family found themselves moving around a lot throughout Marin County and every time they moved, it was motivated by financial problems, or lack of room for her big family in one house. Fernandez was always surrounded by family in her youth, so she always had someone to be around while her mom was out working for most of the day.

Fernandez remembers growing up in a predominantly white county. She attended schools like Loma Verde Elementary, Mary E. Silvera Elementary, Christian Life Junior High, North Bay Christian Academy, and graduated from San Marin High School. Fernandez received a degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2012 from College of Marin. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s College in 2014. She then recently received a Masters in Counseling Psychology with a PPS Credential from the University of San Francisco in 2020. “There are a lot of students with a lot of privilege and a lot of money in Marin.” Fernandez said, “I lived in low-income housing in Hamilton…I did not fit in.”

Fernandez felt like an outcast by the people around her. She felt as if she did not belong. Fernandez said, “a lot of my classmates were very wealthy and had big houses, nice cars, and access to a lot. I lived in a single-parent household and my life looked very different from theirs. Fernandez’s mother heard of a program called the Marin Education Fund, which later would be renamed to 10,000 Degrees of which some of the SRHS students are a part.

This program helped Fernandez connect and meet a lot of SRHS students, and ever since joining this program, she fell in love with SRHS and its community. She’d beg her mom, “Please can I move to SRHS? The people live in apartments as we do.” Unfortunately, after all the begging, her mother did not allow her to move to SRHS because of their living situation. Fernandez’s mother is said to be the biggest influence in her life because “she was a single mom and she made so many sacrifices for me to get to where I am.”

Fernandez thinks of herself as a “silly, goofy, very sarcastic, and compassionate person.” Alison Zampino, a member of the SRHS community and friend of Fernandez, describes her as someone she can “go to…[for] something, whether it is for work or personal reasons.”

Fernandez wasn’t always a silly and goofy person. Earlier in her life, she struggled with a lot of mental health problems, such as depression. She was able to get help and build up the courage to ask for it. She said she’s most proud of this because “A lot of students are scared to speak up about feeling depressed and being sad.” Especially in a Hispanic household where mental health isn’t seen as a real issue. When discussing seeing a therapist, Fernandez’s mother said in response, “Why? You can talk to me, you can talk to us.”

Fernandez was able to fight through the wave of depression and come out stronger. Luckily, Fernandez has a job where she can help students that are going through similar situations as she did.

When asked what she likes most about her job, Fernandez said, ¨I like being a school counselor because of the people around me. I have the best team, I love my team.¨ The Counseling team, which includes Ms. Zampino, Daniel Nemiroff, and Ana Urtiz, all have a big role in Fernandez’s job and is one of the reasons she can enjoy being a counselor here at SRHS. “Who you work with makes a big difference in how your shift functions,” says Fernandez. She also loves working with students every day.

Joseph Luong is a Senior at San Rafael High School and is also Fernandez’s student at the youth group in Novato. Luong described Fernandez as “charismatic, friendly. The type to make people feel comfortable and appreciated. She’s super considerate, and a super chill person.”

She loves the SRHS community and makes a special connection with everyone. She loves working with students. Fernandez says, “I love it you know, it’s like a big part of my DNA, which is building relationships with students, even before I became a counselor.”