Our Team

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Donna Siegel, CEP: CEO/College Counselor

Donna graduated from SDSU with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising.

 

She then went on to work at TBWA/Chiat/Day and Think New Ideas in Los Angeles and New York City where she ran Human Resources and Recruiting Nationwide.  From there, she moved to San Francisco and ran a successful Advertising Recruiting firm. Through the process of recruiting, Donna’s goal was to always help applicants and companies find the right match that would lead to the success of both parties.

 

After having kids of her own, Donna found a soft spot for teenagers and wanted to use her recruiting skills to help the next generation launch their futures. She went back to school and completed her College Counseling degree at UCLA and graduated the program with Distinction.

 

Donna is based in Southern California and works with many of her clients face to face. She also helps students around the country using Zoom and other online communications tools to enable the process.

 

In 2022, Donna became a a Certified Educational Planner. Becoming a CEP includes a review by the highest regarded, certified professionals in the business and requires an extensive knowledge base of colleges, professional development, and volunteer commitments, plus a rigorous written exam. To pass your CEP exam, it means that you are in the top 2% of IECs and have achieved the highest level of competence in educational planning. 

 

She is also professional member of IECA and an active member of NACAC and WACAC.

 
Cristine Butler: COO/College Counselor

Cristine graduated from CSUN with a BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing.

She then went on to manage financial portfolios and loans for Bank of America in Southern California.  Later, Cristine decided to use her marketing degree at Nordstrom where she was a manager responsible for product placement and marketing.

She stepped away from corporate life to raise two boys.  After completing the college application process with her older son, she decided to follow her new passion in guiding college-bound high school students in finding the right “fit” of their own.  She went back to school and completed the Specialized Certificate in College Admissions Counseling at UCSD and graduated the program with Honors.

Cristine is based in Southern California and helps students locally and across the country.

Cristine is a professional member of IECA and an active member of NACAC and WACAC.

 
Ed Schoenberg, M.A. Counseling and Educational Pyschology : College Counselor

After 40 years working on the “college side” Ed spent 5 years as a College Counselor at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, CA. In this capacity he worked with high school juniors and seniors in their college search and selection processes. He retired in June 2020 and works with private clients who want to pursue arts education on the college level.

Ed is a sought-after speaker and has presented nationally on topics such “Searching and Selecting Performing and Visual Art Schools”, “Fundamentals of Enrollment Management” and “Advocacy on Behalf of Student Financial Aid”. He has also written a number of articles for professional journals and with Kavin Buck wrote a book, “A Guide to College Choices in the Performing and Visual Arts” which was released in June 2008. Ed has a background in theater and music and still enjoys performing when the opportunity arises.

 
Gary "Gary B" Bednorz: College Counselor

Gary B graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Economics. He ran a prosperous business in Los Angeles for 20 years before transitioning to a career in college admissions. He worked as the West Coast Regional Recruiter for University of New Mexico and successfully assisted students in the college search for over three decades! He is a member of WACAC, PNACAC, and NACAC.

 

Gary B is known throughout our profession for his helpful nature and humor. He is also known to give informative and entertaining presentations. He loves "Taco Tuesdays" and recently won a prize for Best Salsa at the Ventura County Fair. 

Ellen Parsons: College Counselor

Ellen has a B.A. in American Civilization magna cum laude from Brown University. She also has an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a Certificate in College Planning awarded with Distinction from UCLA.

Ellen loves helping high school students discover why they’re amazing and how to show it! Her foray into admissions began with volunteering as a student campus tour guide, after which she served many years as an alumni interviewer and resume and essay editor. After raising her daughter, Ellen combined her creative talents and passion for education by launching an essay development practice. Since, she has devoted her career to college planning.

Ellen also draws on her advertising and marketing experience, including roles at Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab, and Hewitt (Aon) Associates. As a long-time Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco Board Member and college-access volunteer, she actively advocates for youth and education equity.

Raised in Boston, Ellen lives in San Francisco where she works with students both IRL and virtually. Ellen is a member of IECA.

Allison Syphus: Director of Operations

Ms. Syphus taught junior high and high school biology and physical science for 3 years in Los Angeles before staying home to raise her 4 children.

A native of Southern California, her love of science was ignited during her high school years and she teamed up with her former AP Biology teacher to help grade essay exams in between college semesters. At BYU she joined a teratology lab, researching chemical induction and subsequent prevention of cleft palate formation during embryonic development in mice. She also spent many hours dissecting and teaching from the human cadavers donated to the anatomy lab. During her final year she was hired as a teacher aide and tutor for the General (Inorganic) Chemistry classes and lab, thoroughly enjoying the goggle-eyed environment.

After graduating with her BS in Human Biology, Ms. Syphus returned to her hometown to work in a mortuary while attending night classes at CSULA for her teaching credential.

In addition to her love of science, Ms Syphus is an avid baker and singer, and plows through 100+ books every year. 

Erika Stolnitz: Manager of SAT/ACT and Essay Advisor

Erika is a College Click alum from Santa Clarita who now lives and works in New York CIty. She is a graduate of the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University where she majored in Television, Radio, Film and minored in Business and Psychology.

 

Her day job is with NBCUniveral in publicity for Focus Features, and she moonlights with College Click helping students with their essays and heading up mock exams. Outside of work, she loves going on long runs, baking, and brunch.

Josephine Smolsky: Director of Social Media

Josephine graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. John’s University in 2020 with her B.S. in Communications and International Affairs.

 

She has career experience in marketing, social media, and non-profit fundraising. She loves to dance, hang out with her dogs, and explore New York City!