Tomball High School, 2013
Assistant Academic Advisor at Sam Houston State University
Kayla Saunders has found her place working in Higher Education.
It wasn’t until her time assisting in the Student Advising and Mentoring Center (SAM) at Sam Houston State University that she knew she may have found a different path than expected.
Kayla currently is an Assistant Academic Advisor at SHSU and carries many roles. She advises enrolled and prospective students regarding their academic programs and curriculum, provides retention advice and assists with degree plans.
“The biggest part of my job is being able to reassure students (traditional and non-traditional) that they can finish their Bachelor’s degree and can start their new chapter in their lives,” Saunders said.
Though Kayla has now found a career path that really speaks to her, it wasn’t always what she imagined she would be pursuing when she earned her undergraduate degree in 2016 in Victim Studies with a minor in Psychology within the College of Criminal Justice.
“I knew throughout high school that I wanted to help others but was unsure as to what capacity until I took Forensics as my senior year science at Tomball High School which cemented my love for the Criminal Justice field,” Saunders said.
Following her undergraduate degree, she went on to pursue a Master of Science in Homeland Security Studies and completed that degree in 2019.
“School is a very enjoyable hobby for me and my end goal with that degree was to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help put a stop to human trafficking,” she recalled.
Saunders' plans seemed alive and real until she was given the opportunity to join the team in the SAM Center as a student worker.
“I am able to interact with many types of students from many different backgrounds and towards my last semester in the Homeland Security program, I realized that as much as I enjoyed pursuing that degree, I had found something else that lit my heart on fire,” Saunders said.
Her love for her new career path stems from the educational support she received growing up in the Tomball community.
She moved to Tomball in the first grade and went on to attend Rosehill Elementary, Willow Creek Elementary, Northpointe Intermediate, Willow Wood Junior High before graduating from Tomball High School in 2013.
Saunders clearly remembers her moving into Tomball ISD from another district and credits her smooth transition to her supportive teachers and administrators.
“By having caring teachers and administrators surrounding me every step of the way, both academically and personally, I cannot thank them enough for providing me with knowledge, power, confidence and aspiring words during my early school years.”
She quickly became actively involved in the band during her time in Tomball ISD and and recognized the experiences she embraced made her love school and want to pursue college.
For Saunders, Tomball is her community. It’s a place she still calls home and a place that provided her an invaluable educational experience.
“Tomball is a community where everyone comes together to help everyone else succeed in whatever their dreams are,” she said. “The people would give their shirts off their back, money in their pocket, or food off their table to help those in need.”
Attending Sam Houston State, for Saunders, was much like attending schools in Tomball ISD.
“The best part about SHSU would be the atmosphere. The professors do not act as if you are just a name on a roster. They invest their time and effort in making your experience successful,” Saunders said.
And “Tomball ISD is no different. Students are given the utmost attention and are cared for by the most talented educators in Texas. We truly felt a part of a growing family.”
It is now 2020 and Saunders’ has embraced her new career path in Higher Education.
“I love working with the college-age students and helping them get through their college experience with the most memories as possible,” Saunders noted.
New experiences may have altered her career path a bit, but for Saunders, her end goal of helping people has never changed.
Saunders has now applied to the Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration program at SHSU to further her studies in her current role.