‘Just an email away’ – Priyanka Singh, college counselor who formed tight bonds with students, heading to Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad
Ms. Priyanka Singh, who calmed college applicants while sharing her own and others’ cultural interests with the wider community, is moving to North County, San Diego, to be closer to family.
Known for her ability to put a smile on people’s faces and care for everyone she worked with, as Associate Director of College Counseling and Academic Guidance since the beginning of last year, she helped students build their schedule, consider colleges, discuss summer plans and, among other things, conducted mock interviews so students would be more relaxed during the college admissions process.
She has taken a new position as college counselor at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, where she said she’d be advising a similar number of students as at Shalhevet but with fewer responsibilities for academic planning. No successor has been announced.
She announced her departure in an email on April 25 to current juniors she is working with, about half of the class of 2024. She said she would still write their counselor recommendation letters even though she will not be at school.
She kind of helped me calm down.. She would tell me that everything happens for a reason and that I should be proud of myself no matter what happens with college or anything.
— Keira Beller, 12th grade
At Shalhevet, Ms. Singh said, her goal was to help students figure out what they really wanted for their future.
“I hope my greatest contributions as a college counselor for my students is to walk away from the experience prioritizing the things that are most valuable and most significant for them when they think about life beyond Shalhevet,” said Ms. Singh, known by students as Priyanka.
“To be able to help students at least get a better understanding of their values and priorities and the process that goes beyond just looking at the rank of a college or the prestige of a college.”
Senior Jack Metzger said Ms. Singh taught him how to be a good person throughout the stressful time that is the college process.
“She always had a good mood on and even though she had just as much work as I did, or more, during the same process,” Jack said, “she would put a smile on your face even if you were in your hardest working times… It more felt like I was with someone who I can trust, and with someone like a teacher I can call my friend.”
He said Ms. Singh came to feel like a friend.
“She always lightened the mood whenever you were around when she was in the room. She was just a good presence to have no matter what situation you were in,” said Jack, who will be attending UC Berkeley after a gap year at Shalom Hartman Institute.
Senior Keira Beller Ms. Singh taught her to be confident that everything will work out in the end.
“It’s really important to work hard and push yourself to submit your applications and get things done, but at the end of the day there’s gonna be, in the college process, a lot of rejection, but there’s gonna be some celebrations too,” said Keira, who will be attending USC next year.
“She kind of helped me calm down,” she said. “She would tell me that … everything happens for a reason and that I should be proud of myself no matter what happens with college or anything.”
Ms. Singh said she was always moved by watching members of Shalhevet’s community come together, including at kumsitzes, when students and staff gather in the hallways to sing.
“Like in the stairwells, and gathering for a kumzits and just watching everyone join in together and be in sync with one another and feel a sense of strong connection, just based on sharing such a meaningful space together,” Ms. Singh said.
“Even though I really could only contribute to maybe one song because I don’t know a lot of the songs, there was just always something very touching and moving about observing it.”
She was such a positive and fun presence. And I think people fed off that and it set a tone of more lightness and fun at a time when we were working really hard.
— Mrs. Joelle Keene, Choir Director
With a strong music background herself, Ms. Singh also joined the Choirhawks starting second semester of last year and through the end of the first semester this year, performing with the group at the Museum of Tolerance and elsewhere. She usually sang soprano but would sometimes move to the tenor section, depending where the choir needed her most.
“Singing was something that was absolutely meaningful to me when I was in high school,” Ms. Singh said, “and I feel like it also gave me a chance to get to know you all in a setting where you feel empowered and you feel creative.”
Choir director Ms. Joelle Keene said Ms. Singh’s expertise provided a boost when the group was trying to rebound from Covid years, when in-person group singing wasn’t allowed.
“But more than that, she was such a positive and fun presence,” said Ms. Keene. “And I think people fed off that and it set a tone of more lightness and fun at a time when we were working really hard.”
Ms. Singh said she was happy to help, even though she was nervous about messing up the pronunciation of songs that were in Hebrew. Her first performance was of “Esa Enai.”
“I didn’t want to mess up any pronunciations, because I knew the significance of the song and the program that we were performing for,” Ms. Singh said.
“Because of that, when I got up there and I sang with you all, I still look back and think of how powerful of a moment that was to be able to share that with the community. I feel like that brought me so much closer to Shalhevet quite frankly was singing.”
Keira Beller noticed Ms. Singh’s wide-ranging interests, including in Judaism though she is Hindu, and how she brought her own experiences to Shalhevet.
“She was very enthusiastic about getting involved in the school and exploring Jewish culture and Orthodox culture and just being a part of everything,” said Keira. “One time she came to my Eurasia class to present about Hindu culture… That was really cool, to hear from her about what her customs and beliefs are.”
No matter who, no matter the person, no matter the amount of effort they put in, she cared about them equally.
— Jack Metzger, 12th Grade
Keira also said how Ms. Singh was always there for her during the process.
“Like she was an email away,” Keira said. “She would get on the phone to work on essays with you, work late at night to work on essays with you.
“One moment that was really cute was when I received like really good news about one of my decisions, and like stuff regarding that, and I told her, she was just so excited that she teared up, and it was really sweet because it shows you how much she cares about each individual student that she works with and what happens in their college process and in their lives,” Keira said.
“No matter who, no matter the person, no matter the amount of effort they put in, the little effort they put in, she cared about them equally,” said Jack, “in that she wanted each person to succeed, not just one. And I think that was her big difference and I think that’s what’s gonna be missed most.”