By Darren Simon
2:26 PM PDT, October 24, 2011
Miriam Belopolsky understands students in the Imperial Valley struggling to make the right choices, and who — at times — choose the wrong path.
She understands because she was once just like them.
Growing up in Queens, N.Y., attending a high school where 4,000 students were crammed into one concrete building, Belopolsky found herself moving in the wrong direction.
With six months until her graduation, her parents made the decision to withdraw her from the school in hopes a change would help her find a new path.
She went on to earn a general equivalency diploma from a Queens Borough junior college, but her direction still was uncertain until her parents made one more critical decision.
They advised her to come to California, specifically the Imperial Valley, where her oldest brother lived at the time. They hoped a new location would give her new perspective on what her future could be.
It worked and today students facing their own challenges reap the benefits of both her own struggles and her parents’ decision, a decision she is quick to point out probably saved her life.
Today, Belopolsky — her last name known to many as Bell — is the new director of the Imperial County Office of Education’s Student Well Being and Family Resources Department, which reaches out to support students, families and school districts across the Imperial County to address students’ personal, social and emotional needs.
“You don’t just end up doing this work of prevention, intervention and crisis management by accident,” Belopolsky says. “It happens many times due to previous circumstances that lead you to this field.”
She adds: “This work is best achieved when you have empathy and can understand other’s struggles.”
Belopolsky is director of one of the few departments within ICOE that doesn’t specifically target curriculum and education, though the work she and her colleagues in Student Well Being and Family Resources do has a direct positive impact on a student’s ability to be successful in the classroom.
By working with school districts, students and their families — often through a system of referrals — the department Belopolsky oversees delves into such issues as to why a student might be distracted or struggling, which ultimately affects their academic growth.
Read more about Miriam Belopolsky in the September/October 2011 edition of Valley Women Magazine in print or our online E-Edition.
Copyright © 2013, Imperial Valley Press