October 2017

School Counselors: School? Community? Or Both?

By Dr. Shari Sevier, L.P.C.
I’ll never forget the phone call I received during the Martin Luther King weekend. One of our most popular seniors, his family and their family dog had died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. Our students were wrecked, and their parents were calling for help. It didn’t matter that it was a holiday weekend; our department turned out in force, showing up at the home of the parent who had called us. We spent the evening comforting our students, talking with parents, and making plans for a response at the school on Monday. Even though the school was technically closed, we opened the doors for the community. Kids and parents piled in and, guided by a school psychologist and a grief specialist, we took part in one of the most amazing group experiences I’d ever witnessed. It didn’t dawn on any of the school counselors that we were doing community outreach; we were doing what was best for our students, and bringing the community together was best.

Every week I hear about school counselors who quietly devote time to their communities. Some work in hospitals running support groups, some provide tutoring after hours, some provide comfort and counseling to families reeling from loss. I recently provided professional development for a small school district on the topic of bullying. I was struck when the school counselor suggested engaging the local churches in using the same terminology for their programs that the school would be using. She spoke of the value of a consistent message and language throughout the community. I got goosebumps as I listened to her.

Yes, we are “school” counselors. But never once have I heard a school counselor say no to the needs of their community. Being a school counselor means embracing not just the school building but the entire community. School counselors work hard to support the whole child, and that often means being instrumental in coordinating services and leading the charge in times of need. There are no boundary lines that say “this is where our work ends.” School counselors are the unsung heroes of their communities, the backbone of student services and family needs.

As we approach the traditional time of the year when giving is at the forefront, I am especially mindful of the work of school counselors. I am in awe of your selflessness, your community spirit, and the love you have for your students. Thank you for your work on behalf of others; it does not go unnoticed. Blessings and thanks to all of you!

Contact Dr. Shari Sevier, L.P.C., MSCA director of advocacy, at drsharisevier@gmail.com.