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.