The Hero Series: Dr. Enrique Espinoza

Hare High School
Garden Grove Unified School District
Garden Grove, CA

Their TLC Connection:

Hare’s relationship with TLC began when the principal shared an email with their counselor, Dr. Espinoza. The email included information about the Annual TLC Summer Institute and the TLC Mental Health Awareness Grant Program. Dr. Espinoza immediately applied for the grant and attended the 2023 Summer Institute. Hare is now in the process of partnering with TLC to provide an SEL Workshop Series for their ASB and Teen Parent students.

Population Served:

Hare High School serves students from 9th – 12th grade. Enrollment for the 2023-24 year is approximately 225 students.

School Description:

A continuation school that helps credit-deficient students accumulate the academic credits they need to enroll back into their home school. Hare offers a Teen Parenting Program on campus where student-parents enrolled in GGUSD can access on-campus daycare, parenting workshops, and other support services that give teen parents the opportunity to thrive.

How They Are Using Their Grant:

The counseling team at Hare HS used their TLC Grant to fund several different wellness initiatives on campus. Once a month they offer a special Wellness Event at lunch; using grant funds, they provide a breadth of supplies for art therapy and mindfulness activities. During Suicide Awareness Week, they created a lunchtime Wellness Board on which students wrote words of encouragement for those going through a rough time. Students that participated received gifts such as stress balls, candy, and pop-it bracelets.

Below are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Enrique Espinoza. At TLC we know that without leaders like Enrique, students will not receive the social-emotional support they need.

Q: What brought you to Hare High School and your work in education?

A: This is my second year at Hare High School, but I have been a counselor within the Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) for four years and was a counselor within the Tustin Unified School District for two years before that. Growing up, I was a student in GGUSD, and my sisters were part of the teen parenting program at Hare High School. I think that my good relationships with teachers and my sister’s positive experiences led me back to GGUSD. I knew I wanted to work with youth, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. I imagined being a teacher until my senior year when I was talking to a teacher about my college plans. During that conversation I realized I didn’t want to be a traditional teacher, rather, I wanted to help youth in a different way. As a child of a single mom and with sisters that were teen parents, coming back to Hare was an easy choice.

Q: What do you love about Hare High School? What makes it special?

A: I appreciate the students at Hare. The students are amazing, and the staff truly work as a team. My passion is to provide students with what they need, and at Hare I can do that. Sadly, it’s often that a student’s real needs fall through the cracks in a traditional school setting. As a continuation school we are meant to help students transition back to a traditional school, but parents are often asking if their kids can stay at Hare because it is such a good experience. It feels like our school is becoming a school of choice rather than a temporary obligation for credit deficient students.

Q: How would you describe social-emotional learning (SEL) to people that don’t work in education?

A: I would say that SEL is teaching people how to recognize and navigate their feelings. We are often not taught what to do when we have a specific emotion. Social emotional development is the process of recognizing our feelings, becoming aware of how we react to those feelings, and then learning different ways we could potentially react.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your educational career?

A: For me the biggest milestone was becoming a school counselor. As a first-generation college student, it was exciting to be able to enter the field I pictured when I was in high school. But then when I earned my Ph.D., I reached a milestone that I didn’t expect or plan for. I feel weird being referred to as Dr. Espinoza, but also think that it is important for my students to see that someone like them has reached this level of achievement. If I am a doctor – an expert in my field – they can be too.

Q: If you could reimagine what schools look like and your role in them, what would it look like?

A: There would be an increase in student support. Working at a continuation school has shown me the importance of providing more support to students and meeting each student’s specific needs. If I could reimagine schools, schools would look at needs and not numbers. Students would have smaller class sizes and more support staff.