#SDSUSCFellows- Cathy Longstreet

Interview with Cathy Longstreet

School Counselor at Hastings High School & K-12 Counseling Department Chair

What is one thing you would tell your younger student self now?

Take more time looking into different career options. Talk to people who are working in the career area in which you are interested. My dad was a physician and for some reason he always pushed me to look at medicine, but I never seriously looked into it until I was out of college with a family and it felt too late. 

If you could go back and visit your elementary, middle, and/or high school counselor, what would you tell them? 

I couldn’t even tell you who my high school counselor was. I did recently realize a colleague went to the same high school as me but at a later time. She knew her school counselor from that high school and she had a very different experience. She had a counselor that was really involved and helped students find their way. I didn’t have that, so I guess I would say, “make sure that you are meeting with all the kids”. I might also say, “don’t assume that the high achieving kids who have parents who are professionals are all set and know what they’re doing.” Perhaps that’s why my counselor did not reach out to me. They may have figured I had siblings that went to college, my dad was a physician, and I was in the hardest classes so I already had it all figured out or had enough support. But in fact, I did not have it figured out and nobody helped me. I use my own experience in my current work. No matter the student, they all need support. They all need help and I have to make sure that they’re all getting what they need.

What message of encouragement would you give to first generation students trying to figure out their postsecondary path?

I tell my students to make sure they make choices in high school with the mindset of promoting the most options when they are a senior. I don’t want them looking back and being like, “Gosh, why did I make that decision. Now I have this interest that I never thought I would but don’t feel I can follow it.” Therefore, when there are college tours advertised, go on them. When there are business and industry tours, go on them. Don’t assume that you know what you want to do because you’re probably basing that on the experiences that you’ve had in your own life, not on what’s really available out there. That’s also why I am concerned about counselors solely using interest inventories for their career inventories, because kids are answering those based on what they know at that time. That’s why when you look at results from interest inventories the top careers are things like professional athlete and artist because those are ones students are familiar with or think they’re cool. They’re not always ones that have a demand or a need or that they even have the ability to be successful in. 

If you could give one piece of advice to higher ed professionals, what would you want them to know? 

That all of their incoming freshmen could use support in the summer between high school and college. There should be summer bridge programs for all their students, not just the ones that are already identified as being at risk because our summer melt numbers keep increasing every year. Especially now with the pandemic, there’s so many more obstacles that are in students’ lives than there ever were before. 

What do you hope to gain as a school counseling fellow? 

I hope to learn better how to leverage my interest and advocacy for school counselors at a state and national level. I don’t think the conversation should focus on the ratio of school counselors to students, I think the focus should be the role of a school counselor. There are so many counselors out there that are just burned out because they are spinning their wheels doing things that aren’t part of their job and yet they have these growing needs that really are within their wheelhouse but are unable to spend the adequate time and energy on. I’m hoping the fellowship will help move that discussion forward 

Tell us about your advocacy project. 

The advocacy project that I’m working on with another fellow is on defining the role of a school counselor. So currently, especially within the pandemic, people in education are talking about academic learning loss, higher levels of mental health concerns, and lower postsecondary attainment rates.  Those buckets are all in a school counselor’s wheelhouse. School counselors are the individuals that are uniquely trained in the building to work in those areas and they’re often tasked with activities that have nothing to do with those areas, taking up their time. I think it’s so important to remind and/or educate administrators on the role of the school counselor so they’re used properly in the building. This is the perfect time to promote this project. There is such a spotlight on all of these areas right now so it’s a good time to remind everyone what school counselors are trained to do. 

Cathy Longstreet
Cathy Longstreet

Cathy Longstreet is a public high school counselor and K-12 Counseling Department Chair in Hastings, Michigan. She began her education career as a second grade teacher and transitioned to elementary counseling shorty after. She has worked as a school counselor for a total of 20 years in every level in her district and has been a high school counselor the past ten years. Cathy’s emphasis in her work centers around helping students discover their natural talents and skills and assisting them to forge their own authentic path. She is devoted to diminishing the systemic barriers to college access that all underrepresented students face and seeks any opportunity to advocate on behalf of rural or disadvantaged students. Her other professional interests involve advocating for her profession at the local and state level, such as highlighting the importance of defining the role of a school counselor to ensure they are utilized appropriately within the school setting. Cathy earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and French from Alma College, a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Aquinas College, and a master’s degree in Counselor Education from Western Michigan University.

CBO K-12 Parent School Counselor Student

What Students Need Now

Kimberly Redmer

School Counselor & Teacher at Flint Southwestern Classical Academy

Our children are falling behind in their academic career to the extent that they will not graduate in four years of high school. Students do not attend class every day, do not turn in assignments,  and are not always honest with their parents and teachers. It can be seen as an exacerbation of the inequities in our education system and this trend needs to be addressed and curbed before a successful post-secondary career can begin. 

Students and parents need to know what life is like outside of their world. It has been a challenge because many of our older students have taken on responsibilities in their home. We have students that have secured employment that often requires them to work during the school day. Other students have become the primary caregiver for their younger siblings in order for the elementary children to be successful in online school while the parents are working. We need to provide opportunities for parents and students to visit areas outside of our city in order to develop a sense of building a life on their own.

Students need to be made aware of academic requirements of certain careers. As a secondary school counselor in an urban district in Michigan, I try to reach students on a daily basis to be sure they stay on track to graduate. I am confronted with a schedule conflict, internet access issues, faulty equipment issues, and basic connectivity issues. We continue to “forgive” these issues and do not hold the students accountable. Our direct contact hours for class only allows 30 minutes for the teacher to help the student. This does not take into account the time it takes for students to access the class and greet their classmates and teacher. In order to pursue a college education and eventually a career, students need to be accountable for their own progress.

Students/parents need to know what is available as far as funding. Our students are afforded many opportunities to pay for a college education. We need to meet parents and families where they are at – neighborhood churches, parks, or schools – so they can hear about college costs, the income potential of college graduates, and the scholarships available. In urban areas parents are focused on survival and don’t always have the opportunity to look to the future. Anything that comes with extra effort is not always attainable because of sheer lack of strength and time. Parents need to know what can be achieved without causing them extra work so they can help encourage their children to strive to be successful.

One of the things that this Covid-19 pandemic has brought to light is the fact that we are not all equal. That is especially obvious when we look at our high school students. We don’t all receive information the same way, we don’t process information the same way, we have different family obligations, we have different priorities all because we are different. We need to acknowledge these differences and address them so that our students can achieve their full potential. “It takes a village” and we all must be active participants.

Kimberly Redmer
Kimberly Redmer

She grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and earned her Bachelor’s degree at Northern Michigan University in Physical Education and Health. Her teaching career spans more that 30 years in a variety of settings from juvenile detention to a private boarding school. She also enjoys people and customer service and had worked at a professional sports and concert venue for nearly 20 years. Making people feel good about themselves and each other is her life’s mission.


#SDSUSCFellows- Rebekah Ward

Interview with Rebekah Ward

Middle School Counselor at Lincoln Middle School, Michigan.

What inspired you to become a school counselor?

I was inspired to become a school counselor because it just felt like that’s where my role in education was taking me. I had been in the classroom for about 10 years. I had already gotten a Masters in curriculum because I thought that’s what I wanted to do more of but what ended up happening was that the kids always came and told me stuff that I didn’t need to know, but I still listened to them. It seemed like there was this natural pull where they were comfortable with me. It started to not be as fun in the classroom because I wanted to know more about what was going on with students, not so much to teach my content that day. So I really wanted to move in a different direction where I could learn much more about the kids and help them in a different way. In this role I am able to deal more with the families, as well get to know the backstory of why a student is the way they are, and be able to relay that to the staff. This way they understand the whole child more than just the person they see in front of them and I can serve as a bridge and safe space. That was my draw, I just wanted to be that person who knows that the kid in front of me may not have help at home and I can be that person that provides support. 

What is one thing that you would tell your younger student self now? 

I would tell myself it’s going to be OK. I would tell myself it’s OK that you’re quiet and different. just wait until you’re able to get out there and experience the world. If you feel a pull to try new things, even if mom and grandma don’t want you to, try them! I was definitely a goody goody and never wanted to disappoint anybody. I stayed close to home for college and now looking back I probably should have gone further away. I could have spread my wings a little bit more. Now, I’ve grown into who I am but back then I was just too afraid. Maybe even tell my younger self to look at other things. There are so many other things that could be of interest,  you don’t have to be on this path as long as you were. 

If you could go back and visit your elementary, middle, and/or high school counselor, what would you tell them?

I wish that I could tell them that I want to know who they are. I can tell you that we had two of them in junior high. I can tell you their names, but I’ve never talked to them and I don’t know what they did in junior high. In high school, I knew who ours were but I never talked to them. They never went out of their way to come talk to us. I had no idea what their purpose was. I would love to go back and tell them, “can you just let us know why you’re here? How can we utilize you and your skills/knowledge?” There were so many other people I know, including myself,  who could have benefited from them, but we didn’t have a clue. At that time, I’d really loved to have learned what is their purpose because we really didn’t know 

How do you hope to create a more equitable postsecondary advising system?

In middle school, it’s hard because they’re not going to college anytime soon. So here, my goal is to really introduce the lingo and to let them know that college doesn’t just mean the college up the road but that there’s other options. Also introducing FAFSA and various other concept students and parents will need to know.  Even if students are 11 years old, their parents and the students themselves can start to hear about these concepts. As these students continue through the next few years here with me, they’re exploring different types of careers. And not just ones that you normally think of! I always say I don’t want to keep talking about doctors and lawyers. We need to look at various other fields. Do students know what a mason is? No, ok then let’s talk about a mason. If a student wants to go into the medical field, do they know what a respiratory therapist is? Do they know what a surgical tech is?  

Also, it is important to expose students to individuals in those fields that look like them. At my school, we have about a 60/40 split between Caucasian and African American students, so I try to reach out to former students that are in those fields. I want students to feel like, “you look just like me, you were in this same classroom, you came from my same neighborhood and now you are where you are…I can do it too.” We have done explorations on HBCUs and various college options, as well. Our goal is to begin that exploration and provide lots of information. We are also trying to be very representative of our population. 

Tell us about your advocacy project.

I’m looking at K-5 career and college awareness. Like many districts, we have no elementary counselors. We have three elementary buildings, and I talked to all three principals about next year working with 4th and 5th grade teachers on college and career awareness exploration type lessons that are already embedded in their Common Core. We can work with staff on what their curriculum looks like and how we can fit more in so we’re not forcing teachers to do more work but rather reworking what they already have. Instead of doing career fairs like they always have, changing those up so it’s not always only “Johnny’s dad” who’s a doctor or “Susie’s mom” who’s a nurse. We can bring back former students so that they see somebody that they can relate to, perhaps someone younger that might just be out of college so they’re a little bit closer in age. I recognize that elementary teachers are so strapped for time, I don’t want them to have to do more. So how can we fit that into their current curriculum without having them do more work. I know one of our buildings has to have mandatory parent meetings. Introducing different college and career topics into these meetings will help parents and staff. Also during state testing in the last few weeks of school, teachers need filler classroom lessons. This is a great opportunity to try some college and career topics.

Rebekah Ward
Rebekah Ward

Rebekah Ward is a Middle School Counselor at Lincoln Middle School in Ypsilanti, MI. Her interests include helping students navigate the ever changing world of adolescence and the middle school transition. She is also passionate about helping students become aware of postsecondary education at a K-8 level. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry Secondary Education from Eastern Michigan University and both of her Master’s degrees (Science Education Curriculum and School Counseling) from the University of Toledo. Rebekah is hopeful that College Counseling Now and the Fellowship program will help to showcase the strengths that school counselors possess and increase the ability of counselors to network and share resources throughout the country in order to help their students and communities be successful.


#GraduateStudentsNow- Gabrielle J. Jackson

Responses by Gabrielle J. Jackson (she/her/hers)

MS/Ed.S in School Counseling Program, Educational Psychology & Learning Systems at Florida State University

What inspired you to want to become a school counselor? 

I have been a certified English teacher since 2011. While I love the job, within the last few years, I have found myself dissatisfied with some aspects of education, such as the inequity easily identifiable in schools.  All students are not given the same resources/opportunities to become independent learners regardless of location. I plan to address the systemic roots of the issue in advocating for students to receive what they are due. A dismantling and reconstruction of the education system is needed. There are some sobering disparities and challenges schools and students face that are connected to certain policies and ideas ingrained within the system.  I felt that as a school counselor, I can have a hand in facilitating necessary positive changes to improve (Florida) public education.  I also enjoy helping to foster student growth in academics and mental health; this career is perfect for me and is definitely my purpose.

What is the biggest challenge you faced in your own educational journey? 

I would say that the biggest challenge I have faced in my own educational journey has to do with day-to-day living as a graduate student. Outside of the realm of education, I am a mother.  I will say that it is a juggling act to manage the needs of my two children, while also ensuring my own academic success.  Time management (which is something I preach to students all the time) and dedication are what work for me. Being a mother is a 24/7 job, but also important to me is my role as a student because I have goals as a future school counselor I want to achieve. My want is greater than any of the would-be obstacles. However, I tell my students all the time that where you put your energy is where you’ll find success. One has to have the want, the grit, and the resilience to “get the job done.”  I apply those words to my own life and am always motivated in my own education.

What is one thing you would tell your younger student self now? 

I would tell my younger student self now to get involved.  Honestly, as an undergraduate student, the name of the game for me was: class, work, home. I did not participate in any campus activities and was not a part of any university organizations.  As a result, I personally felt disconnected (if you will) from the school community at a certain level.  Time and experience have taught me how vital community involvement is to motivation and success, especially the school community.  If I had a time machine, I would return to undergrad and be a member of the Black Student Union and/or pledge a sorority.  I am making up for those things now! I am seizing opportunities to be more social. I’ve found that it does benefit me socially and professionally to interact more with peers and friends.

If you could go back and visit your elementary/middle/high school counselor, what would you tell them? 

I still stay in frequent communication with my high school counselor.  He was such an instrumental factor in my academic success.  I remember as a high school senior, my first “class” of the day was as a guidance office aid.  My school counselor (Mr. Darius Jones) would of course have me perform a few errands, but the majority of the time every single day was spent completing college applications and scholarship/financial aid applications.  Every day, I had an essay to write for a new scholarship that he had found for high school seniors to apply.  I had already been awarded a full-ride scholarship due to past academics, but he provided the resources for me to gain even more financial aid, so much so that I was able to buy my first car and put money into savings.  I tell him often now how thankful I am.  He is still a high school counselor currently in central Florida and is still counseling me on my own journey to becoming a school counselor.

What message of encouragement would you give to first generation students trying to figure out their postsecondary path? 

First generation students, I believe, need to know that they are worthy and capable. I think that many may feel that they aren’t capable. If they are the first, they may question why. They may wonder if they have what it takes, and why no one else did. They may doubt themselves more as a first generation student, at least that is what I have encountered in my current role as an Academic Success Coach at a community college.  It is important that they know they can achieve their goals with effort, support, and dedication. I also think it is important for them to know that the desires of their own hearts are what should be the drive behind their postsecondary decisions.  This needs to be reiterated to them often, so that they are less likely to fold under pressures placed upon them from others.

From your perspective, what really works in college advising, access, and success?

Sincerity. Sincerity in the job is what works. Sincerity encompasses building relationships, the desire to want others to succeed, and providing the resources that are likely to encourage the success. Any position where one is providing a service to others requires genuine input to produce highly effective results. I remember distinctly during an advising meeting I had as a college Junior, the advisor never looked at me. I do not think he saw my face after I entered the office. I think many have just gotten stuck on the “business” of education, that they lack human sincerity. Students, no matter the age, want to feel respected and cared for. Knowing names, looking people in the eye, taking an interest in their aspirations, and helping to find opportunities for them all help in sincerity and more receptive students.

Gabrielle J. Jackson
Gabrielle J. Jackson

Gabrielle Jackson is a Tallahassee, Florida native who developed a love for education at an early age.  Fueled by a full-ride undergraduate scholarship award in 4th grade due to perfect standardized test scores, her passion for learning and facilitating literacy to others flourished throughout the years and led her to become an ELA teacher.  Since beginning teaching in 2011, Gabrielle has realized that there are many overlooked and/or ignored issues in education that she would like to correct.  She feels more able to do so as a school counselor.  As a future school counselor, Ms. Jackson plans to address and correct academic, mental health, and equity issues within the public school system to ensure equitable and highly effective services for all students.


Dear Parent

Danielle Gordon


Dear Parent,

You are good enough:

  • when you let your child watch tv instead of do homework
  • when bathing is a weekly activity
  • when your child is crying and you walk away for a few minutes

You are good enough.

You are good enough:

  • when milk and goldfish are the menu for lunch
  • when bedtime is at 6:30pm because you are done parenting for the day
  • when you hire a babysitter just so you can take a nap

You are good enough.

You are good enough:

  • when you let your child wear pajamas to school
  • when several choice words leave your mouth and the kids repeat them
  • when your child relentlessly argues about getting dressed so you take them to school in their diaper and coat and bring clothes for the teachers to deal with

You are good enough.

My name is Danielle Gordon and I am (just barely) a good enough parent. My daughter, Sidney, is 3 ½ and pretty much runs our household because it’s easier to give in than argue with her. And my son, Charlie, who just turned 2 already knows this. Do I like not being the boss in my own home? No. Do I think this is healthy? Not so much. Is this something I want to deal with right now? Absolutely not. Parenting is difficult enough in a “normal” world. Add on a pandemic, an adult sister recovering from surgery in my home, revolving teachers in my daughter’s classroom at school, and other stressors of life, and the answer to that question is a solid, strong, resounding N.O. I will deal with this another day (insert shoulder shrug mom emoji).

I work with a lot of clients who put an exorbitant amount of pressure on themselves to be the perfect parent: to give their children non-processed food, to make sure they are strictly following the remote teaching guidelines given by their children’s teachers, who bathe their children every night and follow that with a book, song, and bedtime routine. All of that is wonderful, if you can do it and enjoy doing it. For most people though, that isn’t reality. I want everyone to know that it’s ok to do your best and fall short from whatever ideal caretaker you put on a pedestal…you are good enough. Not only do our kids need to see us fail at times, but they also need to see us, period. They don’t care if what we do is perfect – they want to spend time with us, feel heard, and be seen. This short video really puts things into perspective.
So, my dear mama, daddy, papa, Gigi, whatever it is that you are called – be kind to yourself and show yourself some grace. You may not be perfect, but you are good enough…and this is exactly what your child(ren) needs.

Sending hugs,
Danielle Gordon, MA, LPC, NCC, SCL, PMH-C

Counselor Educator K-12 School Counselor

What is the Purpose of High School?

Holly M. Markiecki-Bennetts

High School Counselor

Open up an internet browser and type “What is the purpose of high school?” into the search engine. The results vary, but at the core the message is to prepare for post-high school life. This can encompass career, vocational or college preparation.  Too often this preparation is siloed in schools, leaving career and college preparation to the school counseling department. This is problematic. When post-high school life conversations are left to one department or a few individuals, students lose. I remember wondering why I would need to learn how to diagram a sentence when I was in high school, I liked science. Post-high school life taught me that I needed to be able to communicate in writing. When we silo this preparation, students are left to wonder, “why do I need to know this?”  I propose a different way of proceeding with college and career preparation, which involves partnerships to close the opportunity gap for all of our students, regardless of the school they attend. 

School counselors are trained to help a student navigate the coursework, extra-curricular experiences and the flow of high school.  They help students develop goals, learn self-advocacy and help students create a high school plan that supports their dreams. School counselors are trained to help students navigate roadblocks in their high school journey. 

Classroom teachers see their students almost daily and are in a position to help link classroom work to life beyond high school. As content experts, they can serve as a bridge between classroom work and subject with life after high school. 

I am a dreamer. I envision an educational world where, in every class a student takes, there is a small unit on “What careers are available to you if you like X?”  Not just focusing on college majors, but looking at careers. A follow-up to this question is having students explore and share out a career they find interesting that would utilize the classroom content. Leave the method of share-out open, which allows the students to gain insight into their preferred communication style. This simple activity holds power in the life of a student. It helps them link their school experience to the next phase of life. It helps them explore beyond the world they know. It helps them develop their research and communication skills, which are valuable to future employers.

Counselors can support this work as they course-plan with their students, talk about post-high school options and as they help students develop a path to their next phase of life. Creating a building wide approach to career exploration benefits our next generation work-force and helps to close the opportunity gap. 

Holly M. Markiecki-Bennetts
Holly M. Markiecki-Bennetts

A past-president of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling.  Also, currently serves as the Affiliate President Council Coordinator for NACAC.
She has a BS from Alma College, a MSEd in Higher Education Student Affairs Administration from Indiana University, a MS in School Counseling, and a Post-Grad Certificate in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University.  She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed School Counselor in Michigan, and a National Certified Counselor through NBCC. 

K-12 Parent School Counselor

“All We Need Is…” A Perspective Piece

By Lucy Becker Harmon

Academic Dean at Summit Academy North High School

As the world commemorated the graduating class of 2020, albeit, in untraditional ways, the Class of 2021 held their breaths in hopes of reduced COVID cases, lifted constraints, and a typical school year. However, they would soon find themselves echoing the sighs and disappointments shared by their predecessors, with the loss of significant milestones, online learning, once again, from the comforts of their beds, and faced with decisions that no longer appeared to make sense. As a nation, we have continued to watch attendance rates fall, the high school to college pipeline waning, minority students often left to navigate the channel themselves while trying to make sense of the world around them, and unwavering numbers of mental health concerns. In a sense, we are watching our children become a shell of who they once were as they try to adjust and decide what’s next.

In the midst of all of the chaos, there are extraordinary educators, admin, and counselors working day and night to fill in the missing pieces and best support students and families, often working late into the evening or taking weekend Zoom meetings. They say it takes a village, and our villages have never been more populated.

It seems everyone is scrambling to find the “what’s next “… how can we help these families? How can we help our students to find success? How can we navigate post-secondary opportunities when our students are disengaged or uninformed? What our students and families require– what our educators need– is a little grace.

What does the word grace imply? By the most straightforward definition, grace is unmerited kindness or unconditional respect. Of course, my work’s importance is not negotiable; counseling/advising is a need that our future depends on, but I think it’s time, at least for now, to not hold on to those numbers and statistics so tightly and search out the bigger picture. There is a lot of work to be done, and in a sense, we are starting back at ground zero, but in these moments of uncertainty and, in some cases, disappointment, we learn, grow, and thrive.

We need to find grace for the student who has picked up extra shifts at work to help feed his siblings, for the Senior that despite all of the guidance and pushing and cheering, still doesn’t know where he wants to go to school because his depression keeps him prisoner to his bed, for the students who are tuning in daily, but turning in late work because once the camera is off, they are off to tutor their siblings. We need to find grace for the educators who are hitting a wall and questioning their role in education, for the admin teams working tirelessly to fix everything at once, to the counselors who are trying and trying hard, but this year, the distance is creating a defense. Finally, we need to find grace for the parents who are suddenly working from home and struggling to be present with their children and for those children who don’t feel seen or heard.

 This year, like last, is tough, and as a nation, we are suffering. Perhaps test scores may not look as they once did; FAFSA Completion rates may have dropped; decision day celebrations may feature some confused faces who are going through the motions, but that has to be okay. We need to teach and prepare our children like we always have, but this year we needed to bring in the social-emotional aspect and to tend to our children… to be their voice, their shoulders, teachers, parental figures, therapists, and most prominent advocate. This year, we needed to teach and counsel with grace, and we have to embrace the data.

Grace, loosely defined by these unprecedented times, may look like us, as educators/counselors up late studying what is working for other schools, bouncing ideas off of our peers at weird hours, opening late office hours to accommodate families, accepting late work, spending hours with one student navigating the high school to college pipeline, working endlessly to help our students not only find success but healing

In these unprecedented times, grace has to look like health and goodwill, and that alone should be celebrated. Perhaps none of us know “what’s next,” and like the person next to us, we are doing the best that we can. Maybe this year’s data looks like the lives we’ve saved, the voices we encouraged, and the time we’ve given to heal and to decide and to dream and to plan.

All we need is… grace.

Lucy Becker Harmon

Momma to three with two bonus babes and two fur babies; Academic Dean and lifelong learner. Advocate for change.

After spending 11 years in a 12th grade English classroom, Lucy decided to make the leap to Academic Dean, where she focuses on supporting and educating students on their what’s next. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Siena Heights University and her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University, Portland. Lucy also holds K-12 Administrative Certificate received from Concordia University, Ann Arbor.

Counselor Educator K-12 School Counselor

Double Jeopardy

Sheryl Williams

CEO and Founder of Teach1-Reach1, LLC Educational Consulting.

School counselors are especially positioned to help schools and students recover from the pandemics. There are two viruses (Racism and Covid-19) happening at the same time that are taking the lives of innocent people and affecting the education of our children. The devastation from these two viruses came to a climax in the year 2020 but they have both been alive and present in the United States for more than 100 years.  If we continue to ignore the harmful effects of these viruses by making excuses and allowing politics to determine the actions necessary to kill them then we are accepting the fact that no life matters unless it is our own. 

The roles of school counselors have changed dramatically in the last 25 years and they have more demands and larger caseloads put on them with less support from the school systems.  They have been assigned inappropriate roles such as discipline, substitute, cafeteria supervisor, or hall monitor because they are considered non-load bearing thus easier to move around to fill gaps to help the building function.  Counselors like medical doctors are in need of constant training to stay informed with the methods and solutions to keep students safe mentally, physically, and socially.  School districts should revisit their budgets and create funding for counselors to be trained in the areas of anti-racist policies, supporting students of color fairly, and developing better advising plans for every student. 

The pandemic of 2020 caused life as we know it to come to a pause across the world.  The nation had been quarantined to their homes and people were growing weary due to the thousands of people that were dying in each state and there was no visible cure available. True fear and panic had taken over and people were in need of mental health services that could not obtain because of the physical restraints placed on them by the laws set in place to keep us safe and apart from each other. The schools were closed and the students lost their social connections without warning which caused an unforeseen mental health crisis that could not be addressed at the schools.  The schools adopted virtual and online learning to continue the education of the children. The school counselors’ roles were increased and they had to reinvent the manner in which counseling could take place. The increased need for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to be taught by the teachers and counselors became a new part of the curriculum. 

The world is in search of a return to normal and that does not exist anymore. Counselors will be responsible for helping children and adults find a new normal in order to exist once the pandemic is over.  The students, parents, and all staff of the buildings have some type of loss that they have not processed.  The return to school will be difficult for everyone and the effects of the pandemic, racial tensions, and increased poverty will be issues that will take some time to resolve.  Counselors will need a new type of training to support the new learning environment.  They will return to work with the expectation to solve more conflicts and to have more conversations about racism and death.  Schools have employed more police than school counselors and there is not any evidence of the effectiveness of the security officers but there is evidence that supports that school counselors are implementing counseling programs that increase attendance, decrease behavioral issues, and are more likely to increase the graduation rate of students while also increasing the number of students that enter college or some type of post-secondary training. The increased funding could balance the work on counselors and that would allow them to engage the students with group and individual counseling. 

Again, counselors will need the training and patience to deal with the students when they return to the buildings. The schools and colleges have acknowledged that there is more staff needed to address the mental health challenges of the students and staff.  The two pandemics have taught us all that we all need one another to survive.

Sheryl Williams
Sheryl Williams

Sheryl Williams has over 30 years of experience in the field of education as a teacher, guidance counselor, curriculum supervisor, central office administrator, and instructional content coaching. She has served as a middle school math and science teacher and science department head in Detroit and Southfield, Michigan. She has also served as a high school guidance counselor, ACT test coach, administrator for K-12 math and science curriculum and a central office administrator for enrollment services and pupil accounting for the Pontiac School District in Michigan. She is a certified Medical Laboratory Technician and holds a number of degrees and certifications including a BA in General Studies/Human Resources, an MA in Counseling, an MA in Teaching Mathematics and an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She holds certifications as an Elementary instructor grades K-5 all subjects (K-8 all subjects in a self-contained classroom), Mathematics and science grades 6-12, K-12 School counselor, Central Office, Elementary and Secondary Administration grades K-12. Sheryl is also a certified instruction content coach for mathematics and science. She holds 5 certifications in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). She is the CEO and Founder of Teach1-Reach1, LLC Educational Consulting.

CBO Higher Ed School Counselor Student

Supporting Students Through Imposter Syndrome

By Venus Israni

Ph.D. Candidate in Higher Education, Boston College

“How did I get into this program?” 

“Do I really belong in this college?” 

“People here are going to find out that I’m a fraud”

Sadly, countless students carry these thoughts with them throughout the day, every day. This consistent undercurrent of self-doubt is present as they attempt to make their way through college. Students may methodically run through different reasons for why they got into their respective college (while none of these reasons have anything to do with their hard work and qualifications). It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk to peers, friends, faculty, or staff. It’s bad enough that they feel like a fraud, how can they discuss it with other people? As with battling mental health conditions, students suffer silently through imposter syndrome. Although it isn’t an official diagnosis, psychologists recognize that imposter syndrome is a “very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt”, and further, is accompanied by mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. 

Certain student demographics disproportionately experience this phenomenon and its debilitating effects. For example, first-generation college students are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome in competitive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classroom environments. Feelings of being an imposter were a positive predictor of anxiety and also worsened the impact of perceived discrimination on depression levels among Black students. High impostor feelings predicted both anxiety and depression among Asian American students. It’s important to understand that the ways in which most schools/colleges are structured fundamentally disadvantages students who don’t fit into the white, male, heterosexual profile. Students’ feelings of imposter syndrome may be exacerbated by an unsupportive environment that does not take into consideration students’ needs, values, and backgrounds. 

It’s unnerving to think about how we can best support students with imposter syndrome alongside the growing list of concerns that college administrators, counselors, faculty, and staff are facing in the age of COVID-19. I hope that the lists below (adapted to outline steps that students can take) can serve as a starting point during discussions with students. 

American Psychological Association:

Talk to your mentors

Encourage students to cultivate mentoring relationships where they can share their feelings with a mentor who can in turn help them realize that their impostor feelings are both normal and irrational. 

Recognize your expertise

Don’t just look to those who are more experienced for help, however. Tutoring or working with younger students, for instance, can help students realize how far they’ve come and how much knowledge they have to impart.

Remember what you do well

“Most high achievers are pretty smart people, and many really smart people wish they were geniuses. But most of us aren’t,” she says. “We have areas where we’re quite smart and areas where we’re not so smart.” Have students write down the things they’re truly good at, and the areas that might need work. That can help them recognize where they are doing well, and where there’s legitimate room for improvement.

Realize no one is perfect

Urge students to stop focusing on perfection. “Do a task ‘well enough,'” It’s also important to take time to appreciate the fruits of their hard work. Encourage students to “develop and implement rewards for success — learn to celebrate,” she adds.

Change your thinking

People with impostor feelings have to reframe the way they think about their achievements, says Imes. She helps her clients gradually chip away at the superstitious thinking that fuels the impostor cycle. That’s best done incrementally, she says. For instance, rather than spending 10 hours on an assignment, you might cut yourself off at eight. Or you may let a friend read a draft that you haven’t yet perfectly polished. “Superstitions need to be changed very gradually because they are so strong,” she says.

Talk to someone who can help

For many people with impostor feelings, individual therapy can be extremely helpful. A psychologist or other therapist can give students tools to help them break the cycle of impostor thinking, says Imes.

From Dr. Valerie Young:

  1. Break the silence. Share how you’re feeling.
  2. Separate feelings from fact. Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true.
  3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. It’s normal to self-doubt in situations where you’re new to a setting.
  4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel, but don’t take it to an extreme. Forgive yourself when mistakes happen.
  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  6. Right the rules. You have just as much right as everyone else to make a mistake or ask questions.
  7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tape that starts playing in situations that trigger your impostor feelings. When you start a new project, think something positive like, “I may not know all of the answers, but I am smart enough to figure them out.”
  8. Visualize success. Picture yourself successfully making a presentation or asking a question. It’s much better than the alternative of picturing disaster.
  9. Reward yourself. Learn to celebrate your achievements.
  10. Fake it till you make it. Now and then, we all have to fly by the seat of our pants, and courage comes from taking risks. Don’t wait until you feel confident to put yourself out there, or you may never do so.