Eli Shavalian leaves to direct college counseling at Milken


Photo by Kylee Harel

COMMUNITY: Mr. Shavalian, shown above in his new office at Milken, said he’d miss Color War, hanging out on the turf, and Friday morning kumzitses.

By Joshua Gamson, Community Editor

Mr. Eli Shavalian, who tried to make applying to college less scary and was seen by students as open and welcoming, left Shalhevet this year to direct college counseling at Milken Community School in Los Angeles.

Known to students as Eli, Mr. Shavalian started in 2018 as the Associate Director of College Counseling and Academic Advising, and then became director in 2020. As director, he led the department into and out of Covid. And for his first two years, Mr. Shavalian also taught SAS Psychology.

He said he tried to change the way students viewed college counseling.

“I would always tell students I would hope that when they saw me, they wouldn’t freak out because they’d connect me to college counseling and the college process and how scary it is,” Mr. Shavalian said in a Zoom interview Aug. 22. “But hopefully they would look at me and feel calm and know they have someone that’s ready to support them no matter what.”

This year, he is the Director of College Counseling and Academic Planning at Milken.

He said it was a hard choice to leave but that working at Milken would give him “more professional growth.”

“There are very few schools in LA that I would be excited about being a college counselor at,” he said, “and I think a Jewish school is really important to me.”

At Milken, Mr. Shavalian is supervising four other full-time counselors, and also doing academic planning with students starting at the end of eighth grade. Milken, unlike Shalhevet, is a grades six-through-12 school.

Eli, even though he was the college counselor guy, wasn’t always pressing you about that. He was chill with it.

— Sam Edwards, 12th grade

Working under then-Director of College Counseling Ms. Aviva Walls, Mr. Shavalian was also a part of pivoting college counseling when Covid hit.

“We realized that not everything needs to be in person,” he said, giving the examples of parent-student meetings and connecting students with college representatives.

Also during Covid, he decided against giving a final for his SAS Psychology class and instead had a “Powerpoint party,” where he instructed students to connect a psychology topic to pop culture.

“It was still the first few months of Covid – none of us knew how long it was gonna last or what was gonna happen…,” Mr. Shavalian said. “But seeing them speak and present and connect to personal ideas and stuff like that was amazing.”

Senior Jonathan Soroudi said Mr. Shavalian was very open and welcoming.

“He was never, like, closed off or wanted you to figure it out yourself,” said Jonathan, who began working with Mr. Shavalian towards the end of last year. “He really genuinely wanted to help you.”

Senior Sam Edwards appreciated that he was casual and easy to talk to about college.

“It’s very stressful,” Sam said. “It’s a lot to deal with, especially at a school like Shalhevet that is co-curricular—there’s a lot of stuff to do. But Eli, even though he was the college counselor guy, wasn’t always pressing you about that. He was chill with it.”

Mr. Shavalian had a long list of things he said he’d miss about Shalhevet. One was Color War, and another was hanging out on the turf.

“You might not be able to point out every single experience of feeling community, but you’ll know if you’re a part of it,” he said.

“Sitting on the roof and just like laying on the turf and having all the students around me being a part of that community experience is something that I’ll definitely take with me,” Mr. Shavalian said.

He also said he’d miss Shalhevet’s Friday morning kumzitses.

“The fact that everyone showed up or almost everyone showed up, and was just in the same space at the same time, that level of community is really hard to find in a lot of other places,” Mr. Shavalian said.

“I think I’m really going to miss just being there together singing and seeing, seeing students just take ownership and like give a dvar Torah or stand up or lead the song or whatever it is, I’m gonna miss that a lot – and grilled cheese Fridays.”