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CBO Counselor Educator Higher Ed School Counselor

Journal of College Access Puts the Focus on Undocumented Students

By Diana Camilo 

Co-Executive Director, Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment, San Diego State University

The Journal of College Access has published a special issue, “College Access and Success for Undocumented Students.” This edition sought manuscript submissions that offered innovative perspectives and interventions in the context of college and career readiness and postsecondary access for undocumented students. This issue also seeks to increase awareness and deepen the understanding of sustainable frameworks that support the success of these students.

The goal for this issue is to provide a significant contribution to the fields of secondary education, sociology, higher education, counselor education, student services, and educational leadership. We also hope to help bridge research and practice and anticipate that service providers, educators, other advocates, and those interested in utilizing research to inform their policy work will gain further insight as they lead the efforts to create institutional and systemic change for undocumented students. As such, the completed journal includes the work of researchers, counselor educators, practitioners, educational leaders, college access partners, and doctoral candidates. 

Selected papers for this issue represent an array of research-driven approaches, best practices, and policies at the district or college level. We anticipate that this issue will further enhance the professional development of those directly working with undocumented students.

Editorial Reflection

We see that despite the many efforts, resources made available, and policies adopted to support undocumented students in their post-secondary attainment, they continue to grapple with trauma and mental health issues; even before the Covid-19 pandemic. So, while we can acknowledge their resiliency and strength, we are called to recognize that it is coupled with fears, anxiety, students still living in the shadows, and trauma. In other words, the resilience and strength students exhibit, and their experienced trauma and mental health concerns are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the research shows that resiliency and strength can manifest themselves amidst the trauma and mental health issues undocumented students experience. Lastly, we must be mindful that for undocumented students, post-secondary education is not a rite of passage, but an arduous undertaking. Not including how hard it is to be a college student. 

Overall, this special issue highlights the continuous need to unveil the barriers undocumented students face in their path to higher education. Qualitative studies show that students must always be central in this work. Several of the proposed models throughout this special issue showcase the possibilities for educators, advocates, and allies to support students. The manuscripts as a collective show that most important in the work of supporting undocumented students in their path toward postsecondary education is the need to continue to highlight existing systemic injustices and ways to bring about systemic change. However, most important to consider is the resiliency of undocumented students and the invaluable role of their advocacy. We as practitioners and scholars cannot do our work without including student voice and involvement. 

Special Issue Highlights:

  • Cost continues to be the leading barrier for students. 
  • Discrepancies at the national, state, and institutional levels continue to exist regarding enrollment options, practices, and policies. 
  • School counselors and college access partners still lack adequate preparation and knowledge about the process to post-secondary education for undocumented students.
  • Even in undocu-friendly, undocu-competent, or sanctuary schools or districts, students continue to experience racism, micro-aggression, or exclusionary practices.
  • Allyship from the practitioners, institutions, and community-based leaders, and stakeholders can have a positive impact on how students navigate existing barriers and personal hardships, and persistence. 
  • Student activism is instrumental in establishing institutional and systemic change. 
  • Despite potential risks, students perceive research participation as an avenue for continued advocacy for other undocumented students.
  • Parents and loved ones continue to be an invaluable asset toward student success. 

Future Research and Call to Action

  • We must better understand how trauma and mental health impacts undocumented students’ postsecondary experiences.
  • It is important to explore models for undocu-competence for practitioner, institutional, and national levels.
  • It is important to identify information and/or resources for students in absence of undocu-competent, safe individuals or institutions. 
  • Models of mentoring unique to undocumented students must be explored. 
  • We should also investigate what makes for successful partnerships of schools and community-based and other non-profit organizations. 

As we reflect on the diverse contributions of the authors and the stories shared by undocumented students, their families, allies, and practitioners, we are calling for further research and policy inquiry. Many authors are from states and institutions with policies that are unfriendly to undocumented students, and further research and legislation must be created to improve the educational trajectories for these students across the United States. Additionally, in many states, undocumented students attend community colleges at higher rates than 4-year universities. Therefore, it is imperative that further research on the pathways to and through community college —including non-credit courses, technical education (also known as vocational), and general education or transfer pathways — is completed. We hope this issue will lead to new research and create change at local levels and beyond.

Articles Overview

The first five articles in this issue feature the experiences of undocumented students and their loved ones.

Hyein Lee draws from TheDream.US’s latest survey data of 2,681 undocumented students surveyed during the COVID-19 pandemic to identify their specific needs for college completion and career readiness, as well as institutional supports needed for equitable access to social mobility.

Carolina Valdivia, Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, Lucas Schacht, Juan Duran, and Sussana Mendoza, members of the UndocuResearch Project, discuss how the political terrain has impacted undocumented high school students and share key recommendations for educators and counselors.

Stephany Cuevas, through the ecological systems theory, highlights the significant impact the political climate in the United States has on undocumented Latinx parents’ engagement in their children’s education.

Brianna R. Ramirez describes five particular ways in which racist nativism underlies undocumented Latinx college access experiences.

Rachel E. Freeman and Carolina Valdivia focus on undocumented graduate students, specifically the imperative for colleges and universities to build equitable programs at the graduate and professional degree levels. The authors share what they learned working with My Undocumented Life and their facilitation of dozens of UndocuGrads Workshops.

The last seven articles highlight effective interventions and approaches for impactful advocacy.

Katherine Bernal-Arevalo, Sergio Pereyra, Dominiqua M. Griffin, and Gitima Sharma share school counselors’ perspectives on the experiences of undocumented student and highlight how school counselors can implement programs and remove barriers that make college inaccessible for undocumented students.

Keisha Chin Goobsy addresses the need for mentoring undocumented students using the cultural wealth mentoring model and other impactful strategies.

Nicholas Tapia-Fuselier examines the ways in which undocumented student resource centers support undocumented students and contribute to institutional efforts to enhance “undocu-competence.”

Patty Witkowsky, Jennifer Alanis, and Nicholas Tapia-Fuselier discuss how intentionally engaging undocumented students and equipping faculty and staff creates an “undocu-competent” culture that promotes and sustains student success.

Rachel E. Freeman, Daniela Iniestra Varelas, and Daniel Castillo showcase university presidents featured in the film “College Presidents with Undocumented Students” to demonstrate their leadership in building equity with undocumented students.

John A. Vasquez, Alejandra Acosta, Rosario Torres, and Melissa Hernandez describe how a group of undergraduate and graduate University of Michigan student researchers, both documented and undocumented, developed an instrument and website to analyze institutional policies related to in-state resident tuition, admission, and financial aid in the state of Michigan.

Iliana Perez, Nancy Jodaitis, and Victor Garcia from Immigrants Rising highlight lessons and best practices from the California Campus Catalyst Fund, support programs for undocumented students at 32 campuses within the public higher education segments in California.

Recognitions

We continue to be grateful for the scholars and practitioners who continue to advocate for the social and racial equity of undocumented students. We especially thank the many undocumented students and their loved ones who continue to engage in their educational dreams and the educators who support them on this journey.

Diana Camillo
Diana Camillo

Diana Camilo, Ed.D, LCP, NCC is an Assistant Professor at CSU San Bernardino. Her expertise is in school counseling, student services, and administration. As administrator for Chicago Public Schools, she provided district-wide planning, management, and the evaluation of interventions and policies to support and sustain the implementation of school counseling programs. Her work predominantly explores culturally responsive practices, school counseling, and the college and career readiness of minoritized populations. She will also serve as co-director of the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment (CEPA). She was also the founder and chair of the Supporting Access to Higher Education for Immigrant and Undocumented Students conference at SDSU and is a member of the UndocuResearch Project. 

The Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment is excited to welcome Dr. Diana Camilo as the Co-Executive Director and looks forward to collaborating on work to improve access and success for communities and students who have been historically marginalized and kept from postsecondary opportunity. 

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CBO K-12 Parent School Counselor Student

Don’t let the pandemic change your college plans, apply to college today!

By Ashley Johnson

Program Officer at the Kresge Foundation

Should I still apply to college? Is college still worth it? How can I even think about applying to college with everything else that is going on in my life? This pandemic has made everything more challenging than it already was.

These are common questions that many seniors and adults are asking themselves. Many students may be wondering about the next step in their education given the uncertainty of the past few years. High school seniors have had to do many things differently since the spring of their sophomore year.  Some are still virtual while others may be in-person with the possibility of suddenly being sent home to quarantine lingering over their heads. Sporting events and other afterschool activities may be limited or canceled due to COVID-19 outbreaks or staff shortages.  It also continues to be challenging hanging out with friends when there are still limitations for large group gatherings without masks.

I want students to know that college is still an option! Students with some training after high school—whether that’s a year of training for a professional certificate or four years of college—earn more, learn more, and tend to be more active in life.  This isn’t just another couple of years of school. It is the difference between thriving and simply surviving in life. The difference between living check-to-check and barely making ends meet and thriving in a career field that aligns to your passions and having the financial means to save for the future.

September 17th was #WhyApply (to college) day, a day where school counselors and staff, state leaders, and community members came together on social media to remind students why they should apply to college. #WhyApply is sponsored by the American College Application Campaign (ACAC), an initiative of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, which partners with thousands of high schools across the country each fall to host events supporting students through the college application process, especially first-generation college students and those from low-income families who may not otherwise apply to college. This year we anticipate nearly 6,000 high schools will host application completion events between September and December.

Many students are seeking individualized support and assistance as they prepare for life after high school. And while it is important to keep a strong focus on the Class of 2022, we must also support those who most recently graduated from high school. That’s why San Diego State University Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment (CEPA) and ACAC are coming together to address the college enrollment crisis. Through the COVID-19 Enrollment and Persistence Strategy Grant, funded by The Kresge Foundation, ACAC and CEPA aim to create a K12/higher education bridge focused on unpacking advising and counseling practices that best support recent high school graduates. You can learn more about these resources by visiting https://education.sdsu.edu/cepa.

College is still a viable option and the ability to pursue a more stable future is within reach! Having hopes and dreams of attending college is the first step and applying is the next step! Do not let this opportunity slip by your students! School counselors play a critical role to ensure students have everything that is needed to pursue their dreams and get that college degree!

 The COVID-19 pandemic and the way it has upended society might dissuade some in pursuing higher education, but don’t be fooled. Do not let your students miss out on the opportunity to have a passionate career and make more money! Help students apply to college today!

Ashley Johnson
Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson is a program officer at The Kresge Foundation supporting the work of the Education Program. Prior to joining the foundation, she served as the Executive Director of the Detroit Promise program and remains passionate in the pursuit of ensuring every student has an opportunity to achieve a postsecondary degree regardless of their financial situation.

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CBO Counselor Educator K-12 School Counselor

Culturally Responsive Education: Reflection – Beyond the School Walls

Liberation Through Education- Part 111

By John Johnson

Director of Postsecondary & Alumni Affairs 

Looking Back to Move Forward 

Over the last couple of weeks I have experienced some very proud and exciting moments. As I scrolled through my social media page I saw so many of my former students graduating from college. It was exciting because they were all students from my first class as a counselor at University Prep Art & Design. For the past six years I have had the pleasure of supporting the graduating classes at UPAD with developing plans to help them reach their postsecondary goals. As a college coordinator I have the distinct role of navigating students through the complicated process of filling out college applications, financial aid, scholarships, housing applications and much more. Above all however, I believe my biggest responsibility in this role is to help students believe that they can reach their dreams. It is an honor, and is more than a job to me, it’s my passion. 

As I draw close to the end of my sixth year in this role I reflect back to my first year as a college coordinator. I had the goal of being a hero who would come in and save students by getting them out the hood and into college. I had my checklist of items that I needed each student to do: 

  • College Acceptance Letter: CHECK ✅
  • FASFA Completed: CHECK ✅
  • Scholarship: CHECK ✅
  • Choosing your college and orientation date: CHECK ✅

It was near the end of my very first year… I was going through my checklist with each student, and came across a student who hadn’t made his official college decision. This was weird to me because we had met several times and decided on a school that matched perfectly to his needs both academically and financially. I angrily called him to my office so that we could discuss his procrastination. I had an entire speech in my head of what I would say to him “YOU ARE GOING TO MISS OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY!” “YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER!” and my all time favorite “YOU CAN’T APPROACH THE REAL WORLD LIKE THIS!” When the student walked into my office I wasted no time in questioning him. “WHY HAVEN’T YOU PAID YOUR DEPOSIT AND SIGNED UP FOR ORIENTATION?!” The student looked at me as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He paused and said, “Mr. Johnson, I… AM… SCARED”. My anger instantly turned into disappointment. Not toward him but disappointment toward myself. In my attempt to be a hero, I never took the time to listen to what he may be going through. In our many meetings over the years, he always came across as confident and sure of himself but today, he was a student who needed someone to listen and validate him. 

He talked and I listened for over two hours and he shared with me that he was the first in his family to go to college, and that he was afraid that he would let his family down if he didn’t make it to graduation, and that he had never been away from home. The part that broke my heart is when he told me, “I don’t know if I am good enough.” My instant reply was, “What if you are good enough, and what if you do make it.” He responded with, “I never looked at it that way.” As we finished our discussion, we signed him up for orientation and I gave him a hug and assured him that he would be alright. 

That conversation was transformational for me because it made me change my entire approach to this work. In the words of Tina Turner “We don’t need another HERO” (I just aged myself ). Our students needed someone who could relate, support and validate their experience.  

CRE and College Counseling 

Often when we think about Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) we do so in relation to students’ experience in the classroom. There is not enough conversation surrounding CRE in counseling practices. I can make a case that CRE  is just as important when counseling students. Our students grow up in a world that tells them: 

  • Because they are black, their lives don’t matter 
  • Because they are from Detroit, they are less than 
  • Because they come from low and working class backgrounds, they can’t achieve. 

When we incorporate CRE into our counseling practice we begin to create counternarratives to the aforementioned views. I suggest a more culturally responsive approach to college counseling and access, that refrains from a deficit viewpoint, and considers the contextual needs, cultural knowledge and assets our students embody to realize their college aspirations and career goals. Too often when we measure college readiness we do so based on White middle class students as the dominant measure for academic and personal standards to determine if a student can succeed in their pursuit of college and life. However, our students have gained a specific set of skills and resilience that has allowed them to survive and thrive in Detroit when it was at its worst. That same resilience can be translated to their success in college and beyond. Dr. Shaun R. Harper Provost Professor in the Rossier School of Education and Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California discusses this in his presentation “This too is Racist” When we devalue the experience and capabilities of Black students, we are committing to racist behaviors. To overcome this we have to begin telling our students that their lived cultural experience matters and is valued. In addition, we also have to help our students unpack the cultural experiences they have and translate it into tools to help them reach their personal and professional goals. 

Taking a New Approach

I decided to transform the approach I would take as a counselor and take a more culturally responsive approach. I had to move away from being a hero and take on more of a restorative approach. I remember Dr. Chris Emdin calls it “ Restoration over Rescue Mission”. With that in mind I decided to approach this in three different ways.  

  1. Listen: Often our students are told to be “seen and not heard”. I have to create more opportunities for students to express their fears, concerns and experiences. We can’t help students until we understand them; we can’t understand them till we listen to them.
  1. Student-Centered: Move away from my own personal objectives when meeting with students. Allow them the opportunity to discuss their needs, goals and plans and respond and support appropriately. Remember that each student is different and requires a unique approach.  Instead of looking at their experiences as setbacks and deficiencies we must help them understand those experiences are tools that have helped them grow personally and professionally. Help them translate how those experiences can lead to their success in college, career and beyond. 
  1. Empower: Students should walk away from counseling and coaching sessions empowered to reach their goals. Many students are victims of oppression and racism and may need motivation to move forward.  Before students leave high school and transition into the next stage of their life,  they should have a positive self appraisal of themself (self actualization). They should believe in themselves and know that they can achieve any goal they set for themselves, despite the obstacles and experience of their past. 
  1. Love: Our students deserve to be loved. I charge every educator to move away from robotic interactions with student and instead approach students with love and their well-being 

What CRE Means to Me

The thing that I had to learn as a counselor is that I had to meet the needs of the students and not my own objective. Access to a college education is not enough. TOO many of my students feel that they won’t make it in college because they feel they are not good enough or because they feel they don’t deserve it. As educators we have to provide students with the tools and self assurance to deal with the pain of fundamentally being disempowered and oppressed. When we liberate students through education we create students that transform and not conform. But we must be careful in our approach, because education in the past (in some cases currently) has been used as a tool to oppress communities of color. This is why providing students with a culturally relevant education is paramount. By infusing CRE we are able to create conscious and self-empowered individuals who use their educated voice for themselves and their community. They use that educated mind to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression and inequities to create a better world for us all. 

As I was scrolling through my social media and seeing each of my former students in their college cap and gowns I ran across the student who I mentioned earlier. There he stood with his Cap and Gown on and a caption that said “I DID IT” I enthusiastically sent him a message that said “Congratulations Bro, I’m proud of you. If you need anything, call me.” Within an hour my phone rang and it was him. He said “I don’t need anything. I just had to say thank you for everything, it was a hard journey, but I did it!” With a huge smile I simply replied, “it was my pleasure brotha!” 

Citation: Johnson, John “Culturally Responsive Education: Reflection- Beyond the School Walls” Uprep School Inhouse Blog, June 9th 2021, https://uprepschools.com/liberation-through-education-culturally-responsive-education/

John Johnson
John Johnson

John Johnson is the Director of Postsecondary & Alumni Affairs at University Prep Schools. He has over 12 years of experience helping students to and through college working at both the high school and collegiate levels. He is a graduate of Michigan State University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications. He also has a Masters Degree in Education & Training. He is a 2020 Detroit New Leader Council Fellow and currently a 2021 San Diego State University Equity in College Counseling Fellow. In 2020 he was awarded the Influential Educator Award by the Michigan Chronicle, and most recently the 2021 Fred Martin/Coleman A. Young Educator of the Year.


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Counselor Educator K-12 School Counselor

Parents, an Underutilized Resource

By Heidi Pair

Assistant Director at Renaissance Academy

Though I do not have “school counselor” as my title, I have had the privilege of being able to collaborate in a variety of professional development opportunities with those who do. Regardless of official titles, the concerns, struggles, and genuine care for students and how to get them through this year moving forward academically and with mental health intact were shared by all.

This pandemic, in which emotional health issues have soared and access to students has plummeted, has taken a toll on the caring professionals already overloaded with large caseloads and evolving job descriptions pre-Covid. When successfully getting stressed students — and ourselves —  through a semester is at the forefront, effective postsecondary advising seems like a lofty and long-term goal. 

Yet, the statistics are clear. There is continuous work to be done so that all students have access to timely and relevant post-secondary information and opportunities. Without this work, it will be difficult to get out of this hole a worldwide virus has collectively pushed us in.

Overworked counselors, if you had access to a free resource that would help you reach more students, work more efficiently, and allow more focus of your time and energy where it is needed the most, would you be interested?

As someone who walks along the outskirts of the profession but with the very same concerns for today’s students, I would like to suggest a paradigm shift concerning a far underutilized resource: parents. 

The burden of responsibility to provide information and postsecondary guidance to students felt by school counselors is obvious. You desire to be able to give more time, more of yourself. How, I ask, is this even possible with the national average of 479:1 student-to-counselor ratio?  

One supportive parent can bring that ratio to 1:1.

While I recognize not every student comes from a household with a supportive parent or parents, many do. Every time the words “my student” are used by a counselor, there are usually two additional adults using the words “my child.”

What is lacking is not a parental desire or ability to support, but knowledge and awareness. How can school counselors better equip and empower parents to guide their children in post-secondary planning? 

Here are three steps to thinking about the role of parents in a new way.

Step 1: View Parents as Partners 

Are you viewing parents as true partners in the process of guiding students through post-secondary planning? Or, are you seeing parents as “tools” to help you guide students through the process? Partners work alongside, collaborating with distinct knowledge and talents, toward a common goal. Tools provide things so that someone else can accomplish a task. Evaluate your perspective of parental roles and adjust them if needed.

Step 2: Provide Parent-Focused and Accessible Information

Students should take ownership of their postsecondary path, and parents should be invested in the process alongside them. Your role, as a counselor, is to share the various paths, including possible obstacles, and opportunities that correlate with the student’s goals. Consider yourself the travel agent while the parent is the tour guide. Both assist the student needing guidance. One shares information and options while the other walks alongside. The experience of the trip is for the student.

Encourage parents to engage in the process with their students through the way you share and present information. Create lesson plans and guidance for parents to work through with their students rather than have all info directed to just the student. For example, provide workshops that give parents the skillset to help their child think through the process rather than give them checklists of what their student should have “done” by a certain date.

Step 3: Show Students and Parents How to Crowdsource

Guiding a student through college applications, options, and decisions almost seems akin to being a parent for the first time. Sometimes parents just need to share ideas, discuss with others in the same place, and learn from each other. Popular FB groups such as the 100K member Paying for College 101 give parents the resource of each other rather than the efforts of a single school counselor. Showing parents where they can seek out readily available information and support each other will free up your limited minutes with a student to address more specific postsecondary questions or in other needed areas, such as mental health. 

The above may seem like logical and simple steps of role definition, information, and support, perhaps even ones you believe you are already doing. As an outsider looking in, I can tell you that is not what I’m hearing during conversations among school counselors. I hear weariness and desperation in attempts to get information and action from students single-handedly while leaving parents, who care for their child more than anyone, on the bench waiting to be told what to do. Parents, who do not understand the postsecondary planning process, have looked to school counselors to take the lead in the process, and school counselors have assumed responsibility for this work beyond what they can provide. Instead, treat parents as counselors-in-training and equip them to guide their students and share their knowledge with others. Parents need a coach and to be invited as an active part of the team.

If you are instead sending signals that “my student” comes with more ownership and responsibility for guidance than “my child,” not only do you have it wrong, in a 479:1 world, it isn’t even possible.

While continued training of dedicated school counselors in postsecondary advising is critical in increasing college access and postsecondary certificate and degree attainment, when paired with a paradigm shift on the role of parent, we can hit it out of the park.

Heidi Pair
Heidi Pair

Heidi Pair is the Assistant Director at Renaissance Academy, a K-12 hybrid program for homeschooled and non-traditional full-time students. In addition to her role and work with students at Renaissance Academy, Heidi assists parents in the college process through teaching workshops and private consulting. She is a current member of Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling (MACAC).

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.
Categories
Parent School Counselor Student

Where Should I Apply as a BIPOC?

By Venus Israni

Ph.D. Candidate in Higher Education, Boston College

“Which colleges should I apply to?” College counselors across the country guide students through this important question every year. Counselors discuss important aspects such as affordability, location, and institutional selectivity as they help students navigate college selection. However, there are other critical considerations for students who are racially underrepresented in higher education. 

Historically many predominantly-white higher education institutions limited or altogether excluded access to students of color, instead focusing on educating and meeting the needs of affluent white males. Many of these institutions maintain the same practices, traditions, and environments that have resulted in unsupportive environments and negative outcomes for students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or Persons of Color (BIPOC). Numerous studies show that Black and Latinx students regularly have their academic abilities questioned, are tokenized in class, and face various levels of racism from peers and faculty. Further, Anti-Asian racism and hate crimes have escalated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic which has further alienated these students. Perhaps now more than ever, we must help high school students to make more informed decisions on where to apply to college. 

Below, I’ve noted some steps that students can take as they start to look at colleges.

  • Reach out to the student affairs office to ask for a list of affinity groups or cultural organizations that are active. Are there different activities or resources that students might want to tap into? 
  • Look at the multicultural/diversity office website(s). What kinds of support (e.g., academic, personal, financial, social) are available? Try to contact a staff member to learn about what the office’s role is in supporting students who experience challenges on campus. Also ask for the breakdown of staff, faculty, and students by race, ethnicity, and gender  (look closely at the department you’re interested in)
  • Ask to be connected with students whom you identify with to determine what it’s like to be in different spaces on campus (social gatherings, labs, in class, experiences with faculty and within departments) and what support mechanisms exist
  • Check out the institution’s student conduct website to see how bias-related incidents and hate crimes can be reported and to learn about the overall procedure. What are the different steps involved? What support mechanisms are available to victims? How do they ensure your confidentiality? 
  • Contact the career services and/or alumni office to learn about the career outcomes for underrepresented students, including salary and placement information