Portola Ambassadors Provides a Helping Hand to New Transfer Students


Gwyneth Yung

Ambassador and senior Aslesha Chandra listens as senior and transfer Thomas Bittencourt explains his transfer journey to Portola High. “It’s complicated; it was pretty worrying,” Bittencourt said. “This isn’t speaking on the ambassador program. It’s just like moving from state to state getting unpacked and probably one of the biggest worries for me would be GPA transferring.”

Whether it is a new school, city, state or country, adjusting to a new environment can be difficult without assistance. The Portola Ambassadors program has helped transfer students adjust to new surroundings. 

Over 40 ambassadors help organize events, such as the August orientation, with the goal of introducing students to a new school and making them feel welcome on campus, according to counselor Ryan Itchon. 

The co-leaders of the program are seniors Aslesha Chandra, Joanna Rhim, Saif Siddiqui and Lauren Wood. The ambassadors show new transfer students around campus, provide information on the school and teach them how to use Google Classroom and Canvas.

Inspired by a program at his previous school in Dubai, Siddiqui created Portola Ambassadors in 2019 with the assistance of Itchon. 

Acting as a helping hand, ambassadors pair with 1-2 new transfer students at the beginning of the year who they develop relationships with as they get used to their new surroundings. 

“I think it’s really helped them,” Itchon said. “So if there were any questions they have, instead of needing to talk directly to the counselor, they can just reach out to the ambassador, and it’s an ongoing mentorship where they can help them out not only to give them a tour of campus at the beginning, but all throughout their high school career.”

This school year Portola High received over 50 transfers. Among these transfers is senior Thomas Bittencourt, who moved from New York to Irvine for his senior year of high school.

“What stood out to me was the fact that it was so well organized,” Bittencourt said. “Making sure that this lasted past the meeting for new students that really helped, if I had to ask anybody for questions, there’s somebody.” 

The Ambassador program also plans to expand help to students who do not feel connected to school in general, according to Itchon. 

“We try to help ease into the change of a new school; we show them around; we try to help them get more comfortable,” Chandra said. “It’s nice to always be a friend, so whenever they need something, we just kind of be there for them.”