By: Jimmy Kapinos
You know the setting well.
You walk through the student services door where you find two student aides and secretary Carrie Repole ready to greet you. You make small talk before continuing on to speak to your counselor. Your conversation finished, you say goodbye and head back through the door on your way to class.
But it’s the one door in student services you didn’t walk through (look left when you enter, look right when you leave) that should have captured your attention, if not solely for the person who has made the space her home away from home for the past 5 years.
A quick peek into her office gives you a front row seat to the captivating warmth and coziness that defines the rectangular space, where, upon entry, your eyes immediately find a red and gray Glenelg rug gifted by faculty hung proudly along the back wall. Your eyes move to the right to notice pictures of family and holiday decorations atop mahogany shelves, accented by a holiday-themed bulletin board outlined by graduation pictures, a “hall of frame,” of current seniors and former students. A single leather red chair sits invitingly opposite her desk. Everything is neat and tidy. It is clear that a sense of vitality, pride, and appreciation encapsulate the space.
It is also clear that, despite the room not having any windows, it is Vanessa Hooks’ personality that shines brightest.
Hooks, Glenelg’s registrar, is mainly responsible for enrolling new students, but more importantly making sure they receive a warm welcome, a role she said she takes very personally and seriously.
“It’s important that students see me as someone that makes them feel positive about their initial school experience,” Hooks says with a smile. “Glenelg is a special place, and students deserve to feel welcomed, supported, and appreciated.”
It is this quality about Hooks, this warmth, that has defined her past 24 years of working in the county, the type of warmth that her colleagues admire and respect.
“[She] loves working with students,” said counselor Rachel Litvin. “She is a relationship oriented person who loves connecting with the students at Glenelg and her family – she is just a really wonderful person.”
That love is constantly put back into her work. Hooks oversees all student records, handles any withdrawals, and serves as a direct connection with seniors especially, making sure that all college applications are submitted and all deadlines and graduation requirements are met.
Hooks first began working in Howard County as a student service secretary at Patapsco Middle School, as well as a paraeducator across other schools. It would soon lead to a career she said she has fallen in love with, and one she intends to keep until she retires.
“It was hard trying to get into this position [being registrar], as people who do this type of work don’t want to leave,” Hooks said with a laugh. “But I’m not going anywhere.”
And based on what colleagues have said about her, including Litvin, Repole, Kelli Brandt (counselor), and Monique Finch, (Pupil & Personnel Worker), no one else would ever want her to:
“She is one of the nicest and caring people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting,” Litvin said. “Within a month of working here and meeting her, I already considered her a great friend”;
“She is generous and kind, someone you can talk to about anything, and she gives the best advice,” Repole said;
“She is the glue that keeps student services together, both for students and staff members,” Brandt replied;
“She is deeply caring, and a very thoughtful person. She goes above and beyond when supporting students,” Finch added.
That support is fully on display with Hooks’ frequent attendance at a number of Glenelg’s athletic and artistic events. Hooks said she makes it her mission to attend as many events as she can.
“What better way is there to know the community than by supporting the kids and getting involved in events outside of the day-to-day?” Hooks said. “I was at the last boys basketball game, and it was awesome! No student can have too much support. For the students that I connect with, or to broaden my community, there is no level of supporting them that they wouldn't enjoy. I think I even pulled my right shoulder because I was jumping and pumping my fists so hard. Doing those things keeps me younger by being around younger people.”
Along with her love, support, and appreciation for Glenelg students, Hooks expressed her love for her children: her son who is a researcher and specializes in the lymphatic system, and her two daughters, one who is finishing her PhD and is an adjunct professor at Winston-Salem State University, and her other who writes stories for TV shows streamed on Paramount+.
When Hooks is not balancing her time between her school family and at-home family, she is busy with her other passion: baseball.
A die-hard Orioles fan and lover of all things baseball, Hooks has recently made it one of her goals to travel to all 50 states – 32 so far with Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Colorado being her favorites – and attend games at every Major League Baseball park. She is nearly halfway there at 13.
“There’s just something special about ballparks,” Hooks said. “I especially appreciate the stadiums that showcase the city and its skyline. Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the Cardinals play, is a wonderful example of how the stadium feels connected to the city.”
Hooks also has a passion for hiking and loves camping, a great way, she says, to experience the beauty that other places have to offer. Hooks said that seeing Niagara Falls reminds her that “life is filled with so many marvelous sites, it would be a shame to miss out on anything the world has to offer.”
As for what Hooks has to offer?
Hooks hopes that if anything, everyone should take the following advice: “Keep an open mind to anything that might be thrown your way, as happiness can be found everywhere if we just stop to realize it.”
Stop by student services. Enter the door and turn left. You'll find happiness right in front of you.