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Reflecting on the Value of Student Connections

By Giuliana Scardina | March 2022

When I first started my graduate program in the fall of 2019, the thought of graduating with my master’s in school counseling seemed quite far away. Once the spring of 2020 approached, the light at the end of the tunnel looked even dimmer. However, after two and a half years, a mixture of in-person and virtual classes, and a few months of internship under my belt, I am finally noticing the light growing brighter.

Like most people, I could not come close to predicting that I would complete my graduate degree during a global pandemic. There are theories for school counselors to use when supporting a student through anxiety or career exploration, but there is not a theory for helping students through online education while being isolated from their friends and family. So far, my internship has challenged me in a different way than I anticipated the challenge when I first started classes in September 2019.

One of my main takeaways from this internship experience has been the importance of meeting students where they are. Prior to the pandemic, I knew this was crucial, but the mindset around this has shifted. Before it meant to have empathy for a student in situations such as when they are down about a bad grade on a chemistry test. Now it means to have patience for a student when they act out in class. School counselors continually remind one another to practice self-care and be aware of burnout, and this year I find myself encouraging it not only to my colleagues and classmates, but also to the students I meet with.

Although the challenges of this school year have been eye-opening, I often find myself feeling grateful to be a part of this school counseling community and excited for my professional journey ahead. I am still learning the ropes of being a professional in the field, but my peers have welcomed me with open arms. As a member of the Illinois School Counselor Association executive board, I serve alongside many passionate school counselors who work tirelessly to support the Illinois school counseling community. My counseling educators in my graduate program, and the American School Counselor Association, empowered me to feel confident enough to run for a position on my state association’s board. While in this position, I have felt a sense of duty to not only serve school counseling professionals, but more so those who are also in graduate school and training to enter our schools.

As we move past the winter months and into the spring season, I feel excited and anxious for the end of the school year. I am excited to complete this chapter of my life, but anxious for what is next. However, with the support and education of the various professionals around me, I feel well equipped to become a practicing school counselor. A takeaway from the past two and a half years is the encouragement and support I continually feel from this community that I am grateful to be a part of, and I encourage school counseling graduate students to jump in and become as involved as you can.

Contact Giuliana Scardina, ISCA graduate student representative, at