This month, College & Career Coach Ashley LeSaicherre and Development Director Carrie Peña team up to provide an unconventional perspective into the lives of a group of Career Compass college & career coaches. 

One of our favorite types of movie scenes is the “reveal.” When you realize the powerful superhero who can powerlift cars is a skinny teenage boy. (Gasp!)  Or when you learn that the degenerate, criminal-minded friend is actually the protagonist’s alter ego and doesn’t exist at all. (Bet no one saw that coming!)  The best was when Dorothy drew back the curtain on the Great Oz and realized he wasn’t all-powerful - he was “just” a man.

Today, we’re drawing the curtain back on a small group of our college & career coaches. We want you to get to know them in a different way. They’re trained, professional coaches, but they’re also mothers, wives, football fans, adventurers, former teachers, self-proclaimed nerds, college instructors, churchgoers, and community members. Like you, they’re people who have big hopes and dreams. They’re quirky, they’re caring, and they’re all so different! 

Career Compass has four major service buckets: one-on-one college & career coaching, college & career awareness seminars, FAFSA coordination, and Jump Start mentoring. We’re starting to think that sometimes, we don’t choose the Career Compass coach - she chooses us! Depending on her background, likes, dislikes, and aspirations, she may be drawn to provide one set of services over another.

Get to know our coaches from South Louisiana (Jeri Bankston), Central Louisiana (Teresa Spruill), North Louisiana (Cheryl Parker), and Southeast Louisiana (Karen Ellender)!

South Louisiana - Jeri Bankston

My name is Jeri Bankston, and I’m a College & Career Coach in South Louisiana (Tangipahoa Parish).

I have a degree in English, and I am a former high school teacher. I love being crafty and creative. I am a self-proclaimed nerd who loves to read and research. My two children are Caroline and Sean, and they make my heart happy! We love to do things as a family - be involved with our church, plant gardens, play basketball, have family game night with board games (we are way too competitive), and go on vacations.

Most of my work for Career Compass focuses on one-on-one coaching with seniors. I love helping students plan for their future and watching them get excited over the opportunities they have. My absolute favorite student success story was when I was working with a senior at Amite High School. We discussed her college options and what she was interested in studying. She decided she was ready to register for Northshore Technical Community College that day, so we proceeded to do that. After we finished, she just stood there not saying anything for a minute. I wasn't sure if I had said something wrong. She then had a big tear roll down her sweet face and she told me, "I am going to be the first person in my family to ever go to a college. My family is going to be so excited!" She thanked me several times for helping her through the process. She has no idea what an impression she left on me. 

Fun Facts About Me:

  1. I got to stand with the statue of Julius Caesar in the spot where he died in Italy. I told you I was a nerd!
  2. We have chickens and a cat that adopted us.

Central Louisiana - Teresa Spruill

My name is Teresa Spruill, and I provide College & Career Awareness Seminars for students in grades 8 - 11. I work in several parishes: Rapides, Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, Natchitoches and Vernon. 

My husband’s name is Terry. I have one daughter, Olivia, and she is a junior at Pineville High, which is one of the schools that Career Compass serves. My husband has two sons, Robert and Adam. We have one grandson, Colton, who is four years old.

I fell in love with going into classrooms and talking with students of all ages, which is why love being a Career Compass seminar presenter. Seminars give me a great variety and mix within my work schedule. I see students of all different grade levels. What we discuss with 8th graders looks very different from what we present to an 11th grader. I’ve found that every school is different, too. Some schools are huge with hundreds of students, while others are small and rural. My absolute favorite seminar is the one we do with 8th graders. Those students are so excited to see Career Compass. They usually are willing to share info (sometimes too much!). They are like a blank slate, and their dreams are big.

Fun Facts About Me:

  1. It makes me smile when I see our students as I am out about in the community. I run into them everywhere!
  2. This is my favorite time of year - it’s fall, and it’s football season!  I am a huge LSU and New Orleans Saints fan.

North Louisiana - Cheryl Parker

My name is Cheryl Parker, and I’m a College & Career Coach in North Louisiana (Caddo Parish).

I will be celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary next March!  I have two sons, one who attends Bossier Parish Community College with plans to transfer to Louisiana Tech. My other son is a freshman at Louisiana State University. We have one very spoiled rescue dog, Lucy, who rules our household. I enjoy reading and crafting, and my family enjoys camping together.  

I love my job providing one-on-one coaching to high school seniors. With coaching, we have the potential to impact a student’s future quality of life. I find it deeply rewarding to be able to work with a student to explore different pathways to a college education, consider obstacles, and then find ways around them. For example, I might help them find the appropriate contact at a college or university, and I might just make the phone call for them if they’re nervous or don’t know what to say. I may help another student understand that a community college might be the best starting place for them.

Fun Facts About Me:

  1. I taught myself to knit through YouTube.
  2. On a recent trip to New York City, a group of friends and I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We had to be on the street at 5:30 a.m. I think the parade came by us like four hours later, but it was so much fun! We even ended up being on TV during the parade coverage.  

Southeast Louisiana - Karen Ellender

My name is Karen Ellender, and I am a College & Career Coach in Southeast Louisiana (Terrebonne and Lafourche).

I am married to a very loving man who I met in college. I have a son and daughter, and I have one granddaughter, Kate. She is the newest love of my life! In addition to my work with Career Compass, I also teach night class with adults trying to get their high school diplomas. I am a member of Healing Place Church. I have a rescue dog named Sofia. I've probably read more than 300 books since I retired from teaching.

I so enjoy assisting that senior who is unsure and a bit fearful; then, as the year progresses, their dreams become goals and realities. My favorite student story is about one of my first seniors from South Lafourche High School. This young woman was a returning senior who had been home-schooled for her sophomore and junior years. Her father was killed by a drunk driver, so her mother had to make ends meet by re-entering the workforce. This young lady stayed home to provide childcare, and became the adult in charge of her four younger siblings. She worked extremely hard catching up, but had no clue as to the process of going to college. We worked with her often--applying to Nicholls State University, registering for the ACT, and getting her FAFSA ID set up. The excitement on her face at the end of the year when she received her Career Compass t-shirt - which signified that she has applied to college - made every long trip to Galiano, LA so worth it!  

Fun Facts About Me:

  1. My daughter recently gifted me trip to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. She and I hiked through Antelope Canyon. It was incredible!
  2. I love making jewelry. I create “baby bling” with Swarovski pearls and crystals.

Want to learn more about our coach team? Go to our home page, and click “Our Team” to view individual coach profiles by region.