Online Exclusives

The importance of career counseling with undocumented Latino students: A sneak peek into ACA’s Client-Focused Research Series

Heather Rudow February 8, 2013

casncacesAttendees of next month’s 2013 American Counseling Association Conference & Expo in Cincinnati will be treated to a new series of conference sessions aimed at shedding light on research that ACA members are doing on topics that uniquely benefit clients. 

Called the Client-Focused Research Series, these 30-minute presentations aim to increase awareness of research that focuses on improving the services that professional counselors provide to clients.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, Counseling Today will speak with presenters about their research and why they believe it is important to the enhancement of the profession. First up is Cassandra Storlie, who will be presenting the session “Career Counseling with Undocumented Latino Youth: A Qualitative Analysis of School Counselors.”

What would you like attendees to take away from your session?

The cultural worldview of undocumented Latino youth often points to an environment of few career options. As counselors and social justice advocates, we are charged with the responsibility to cultivate the career development of all students. From this session, attendees will learn about the challenges school counselors encounter when working with the unique career development needs of undocumented Latino students. Attendees will be able to evaluate their own model of career counseling in the K-12 classroom and will be provided [with] suggestions on how they can improve their counseling approaches to meet the needs of undocumented Latino youth.

Why is it important for school counselors to learn about counseling undocumented Latino youth?

Of the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants, between 1.8 and 2 million are school-aged Latino students (Passel, 2006; Passel & Cohn, 2011). Many undocumented Latino youth entered this country as children, having no choice but to follow their parents’ direction in crossing the U.S. border. As these youth assimilate, they begin to recognize that their lack of citizenship affirms they do not have the same opportunities as their American counterparts (Gildersleeve, Rumman & Mondragon, 2010). Furthermore, undocumented Latino students experience an unconventional career development trajectory, which is often recognized first by school counselors and student affairs professionals (Ortiz & Hinojosa, 2010). There is a lack of counseling literature that addresses the unique issues of undocumented Latino youth in school settings, particularly on the issues of career development. School counseling approaches need modification to assist undocumented Latino youth in academic, social/emotional and career domains beyond the current multicultural framework to address the unique challenges faced by this population.

What experience do you have with this group of students?

I have had a strong interest for this population because I have had family members who have struggled with their own career choices because of having an undocumented status. By witnessing their challenges in obtaining citizenship, I developed a passion in researching how the counseling profession can help ease the obstacles that face undocumented Latino students. I have also had the opportunity to work with undocumented Latino students at an elementary level during my doctoral internship.

What inspired you to host this session at the conference?

I think research on this topic is very much needed in the counseling profession. There are literally millions of Latino students that are undocumented, and school counselors need the support and resources on how to best work with this population. The ACA Conference is a fantastic place to be able to reach counseling professionals about this important topic.

How did you first get involved with the subject?

Throughout my doctoral program, I have focused my research on the developmental issues of marginalized populations in order to provide a voice to those who, so often, are not heard. For me, this topic is about social justice and advocacy for individuals that are oppressed. In observing the obstacles my family members have had in their own quest in gaining citizenship, I became interested in researching the emotional, social and multicultural challenges of undocumented Latino immigrants. Just recently, a colleague and I published an article on how school counselors and student affairs professionals can use a collaborative social justice model that can enhance the opportunities for undocumented Latino youth.

Did anything surprise you as you were compiling information for your session?

As I finished the data collection on this topic, it was surprising to me that the participants did not identify any multicultural career counseling theories that they used when working with this population. Most participants stated that they provide career counseling/guidance the same way to all students, documented or not. Yet they all identified the need to take a different approach with this population because of their unique needs. 

Who do you feel is the best audience for this session?

School counselors, school counselor site supervisors, career counselors, counselor educators and counselors-in-training.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The laws on immigration are changing, and it is our duty to stay up to date on how that impacts the clients and/or students we work with!

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at

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