Meet a School Counselor Who Helps Students Prepare for the Future

by Alyssa Burlingame

Before 6:30 a.m., it’s not unusual for school counselor Tony Morrow ’11, M.A.Ed. ’12, to already be in the College and Career Center at Fallbrook High School, ready to meet with parents during early-morning appointments they can schedule before their workday begins. For the many working-class families in Fallbrook, it can mean the difference between being involved in a student’s college and career planning process or having to miss out—so Morrow makes himself available.

Morrow has had his share of training for early wake-up calls: he is a retired veteran who spent 20 years serving in the United States Navy, working primarily in law enforcement and anti-terrorism efforts. “In that arena, you spend a lot of time talking to people,” said Morrow. “When I had opportunities to speak with younger sailors and Marines, I found that I really connected with that generation and knew I wanted to help make an impact in young people’s lives after I retired from the Navy. Education was a natural fit.”

With his past experience in law enforcement, Morrow knew how important education, encouragement, and early intervention could be for teenagers. “A lot of the young people I met on the wrong side of the law had just made a poor choice or a bad decision,” he said. “They didn’t have solid structures and surroundings, or the right voices in their ear.” Pursuing a career in K-12 education would mean Morrow could be a positive influence early in students’ journeys.

Using his military education benefits, Morrow earned his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership at Azusa Pacific’s Murrieta Regional Campus and went straight into a graduate program for school counselors in APU’s School of Education. As part of his counseling fieldwork, Morrow served at Fallbrook and not long after became a full-time college and career counselor dedicated to helping students pursue their goals. “This is the only high school that we know of that has a PPS-credentialed school counselor devoted only to college and career counseling,” he said.

The role is a critical one for the learner population of Fallbrook. More than half of the student body qualifies for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, and about 14 percent are English language learners. In 2017, the school opened a brand-new College and Career Center facility. Situated in the middle of the bustling school grounds, it is a focal point for advancing a campus wide culture of college and career readiness. “The center is part of demonstrating that vision,” said Morrow.

Inside the state-of-the-art center, 160 Chromebooks allow multiple classes to productively visit the center at once. When college application season ramps up, Morrow and his fellow school counselors guide students through every aspect of the process for any college or university they are applying to. Frequent FAFSA workshops for students and parents resulted in 87 percent of the senior class completing the federal aid application last year. Morrow and school administrators want to see the completion rate reach 100 percent. “My goal is for every student to graduate prepared for what comes next,” he said.

If that means setting foot on campus around 6 a.m. to be ready for a parent meeting, or helping a student write a compelling college essay, Morrow will be there. “We do what we do because we love the job,” he said. “For myself, I believe this is what I have been called to do in this season of my life, that this is where God has placed me. I view my job as worship and faithfulness, and looking at it that way, I’m just here doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Alyssa Burlingame ’19 is an editorial intern in the Office of University Relations.