Ellen Dameron – Administrative Assistant to Admissions Office at Laguna Blanca School
When kids were sent home from school that fateful March of 2020, many parents found themselves with the additional job of homeschooling their children alongside their own work. Educators, too, found themselves at their wits’ end, balancing academics with safety in a new, remote environment. As we emerge almost two years later, in-person learning has proven invaluable to students of all ages, and with many families reevaluating their schooling situations, administrators across the globe are tackling this brand new challenge with agility and innovation.
Santa Barbara native Ellen Dameron is one of them. True to her California roots, Dameron majored in Communications at UCLA, and while she no longer works in the field per se, her college experience set an invaluable foundation for her interest in academics and education. After fifteen years at The New York Times, Ellen’s career path took a turn, taking time off to raise a family of her own. “Becoming a parent myself really furthered my interest in that whole process,” she tells me, “and I became so fascinated with what it means to educate children not just for professional and academic success but also to enrich their creativity and personal growth.”
Dameron returned to work in the nonprofit world where her passion for cultivating young minds rang true once more, working for a Santa Barbara foster care agency. And so it all comes to a perfect crossroads: with her Communications degree, journalism and nonprofit experience, and sunny Santa Barbara home base, it seems that she has found herself a home at Laguna Blanca School, working as the Administrative Assistant to Admissions Office.
At Laguna Blanca, Ellen’s day-to-day primarily involves direct work with prospective families who are interested in learning more about the school. Whether it be providing tours, giving information about programs, or educating them about the school culture, “admissions is all about relationships, developing a dialogue, and taking the time to understand what a family is looking for in a school,” Ellen explains.
Oftentimes families are looking to solve a problem or better the social, emotional, and educational environments for their child, which has undoubtedly seen an uptick since the pandemic began. “We’ve worked really hard to develop relationships with people during Covid — sincerely showing up for the families, being responsive, and establishing connections has really helped and I think the families feel that.”
When asked to paint the picture of the school culture, Ellen was quick to highlight the close-knit community she’s found within her own office and amongst the student body and faculty alike. “We’re a team of four, so it’s a close-knit and smaller family, but I think that’s true about the school generally. It’s a wonderful way to grow up: for everyone to know you and to be known in your community. Everyone is super supportive of one another, and the students bring so much energy and life to the everyday.”
In the final phase of her career, Ellen’s Why? is as strong as it ever was: “Seeing the students here on campus develop their interests and academic pursuits is just so fascinating to me,” she marvels with a youthful grin. “It’s a privilege to watch these kids grow and is incredibly rewarding to see where they’re going to go in the future, whether that be high school, college, or their professional life, it’s really exciting to witness and be a part of that every day.”
Covid taught us all that there is no singular image of how to do things or what works. When in-person was a no-go, the struggle of replicating the in-person experiences online was a challenge for us all. “Students would come in and do a shadow day here, which allowed them to immerse themselves in Laguna Blanca’s day-to-day and help them imagine themselves as a part of this community,” Ellen describes, looking back on the pre-pandemic world.
Ultimately we all learned that it isn’t about replicating the old ways as much as it’s about finding new solutions to new hurdles. “The additional events we put on through Zoom are not just a replacement for what used to be, but offer their own advantages; it’s a lot more convenient for families and we’ve seen a growth in applicants over the past two years. I think people are looking at education a little differently given all that has happened and being innovative and flexible is super important to us.”
And, quite fittingly, these values translated into Laguna Blanca’s increasingly online scheduling system. “Prior to PlanHero, we were using our existing database program to do event scheduling and registrations, but it was a bit rigid for what we needed at the time,” Ellen recounts.
It’s hard to navigate an increasingly online and complex world without the appropriate tools, and that’s exactly what we hope to provide here at PlanHero. We understand that life is often messy, complicated, and filled with curveballs, and it seems that Laguna Blanca does too: “We’ve been offering a lot more events — it’s been so helpful to provide links to families because it puts the ball in their court: they can signup for what works for them and adjust that as needed. It’s cut down so much back and forth for us, but has become a great interactive experience for our clients, too.”
Editor’s note: Laguna Blanca School uses our Club Tool chiefly due to the additional branding it offers the school in its email confirmations and notifications.