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Guiding Students to Success

Katherine "Kat" Pastor

Guidance Counselor and Department Chair, Flagstaff High School Counseling

1999 BS in Psychology2001 MEd in Counseling

For Northern Arizona University alumnus Katherine Pastor, the acclaim she's received during her career has its roots in the service and mentorship ideals she learned as an undergraduate. And Pastor has put those ideals to good use. Not only was she awarded the Arizona School Counselors Association (AzSCA) Secondary School Counselor of the Year for 2009, but she sits on numerous boards across the state. She has also become a mentor for thousands of students from her post as guidance counselor and department chair for Flagstaff High School Counseling where she does for young students today exactly what was done for her during her time at the university.

"I still appreciate how faculty really cared and their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty at both the undergraduate and graduate levels," she says. "They knew your name and would spend time outside of class to talk with you. It was like all faculty were in a partnership to help you."

Pastor has taken those lessons and run with them. Renowned for her tireless service, Pastor's success is rooted in her personal approach to mentorship. "Ms. Pastor knows everyone's name," says Bridget Johnson, a counselor's aide at Flagstaff High School. "She knows each of their stories, and she remembers exactly what everyone needs."

The impact she has on students is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Pastor sits on numerous boards, and she sits at the helm of most of them. Her involvement spans a diverse array of organizations, including Flagstaff's Master Chorale, the Arizona High School College Relations Counsel, the YMCA board for the Northern Arizona Resource College Center, the Arizona School Counselors Association, and her family's team which hikes in Flagstaff's annual American Cancer Society Climb to Conquer Cancer.

Pastor never seems to stop moving — and she says she doesn't mind. "I get involved because there are so many causes that need help. It's hard to say no. Besides, it's just fun."

During her time at the university as a student and employee, Pastor says that she "didn't do anything spectacular" during her time at the university. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise. While working on her bachelor's in psychology and athletic coaching, her master's in education?student affairs, and her second master's in school counseling, she fondly remembers volunteering in psychology research labs, participating in national junior weightlifting competitions, coaching high school varsity track & field and volleyball teams, mentoring NAU student athletes, and singing with Master Chorale of Flagstaff. More impressively, Pastor accomplished all that while she fought and conquered thyroid cancer. Through it all, she says, the many mentoring relationships she developed with professors helped her to persevere and succeed.

Now, as a leader and a voice for young students preparing to succeed in high school and beyond, Pastor can pass on the wisdom she holds. "I definitely tell students to study abroad, to do internships, and to find student employment or work study," she says. "They need to learn what it is really like in the world of work related to their field. I tell them not to be afraid to stay at NAU; but don't be afraid to go away either, because you can always come back."

Most importantly, Pastor talks to them on their terms, not hers. In my mind, it is all so easy: admissions applications, financial aid, and scholarships," she says. "But I have to see it from their viewpoint, and they can flip out with anxiety, so I tell them ?the application process is like trying on a pair of pants, you're not committed to it, but you don't know if it's right for you until you try it on.'"

Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, and Arizona can be proud that such a dedicated homegrown woman like Kat Pastor stays involved with passion and leadership. "You can talk to Mrs. Pastor," said her counseling aide Bridget Johnson. "You can talk to her like a friend, and you know she'll always be there."