Great counselors are essential to AVID’s success—they help ensure access and equity to the rigorous courses that put students on a path to college! They also provide important guidance and college knowledge to their students every year. In honor of National School Counseling Week, we wanted to share insights from some of our experienced AVID counselors, so we interviewed Kimberly Hallenbeck from Lakeside Middle School in Millville, NJ, Annette Moran from J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, TX, and Lamar Young from Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, GA!
Why did you choose to become a counselor?
Kimberly Hallenbeck (KH): Becoming a counselor was always a dream of mine from the time I was a teenager. I had a lot of support from my counselors in middle and high school, and I saw it as my way of giving back to the profession and community. I absolutely LOVE helping students and watching them mature, grow, and learn.
Annette Moran (AM): I became a counselor because I thought I could improve my effectiveness as an educator by supporting more students in a more holistic manner on a daily basis.
Lamar Young (LY): I became a counselor to have the ability to impact the whole student in a broader manner, whether that is academically, socially/emotionally, or in career development.
What’s been the most rewarding moment of your career?
KH: Often, in middle school, the rewards of your hard work are not noticed until years after. A moment I can remember happened just recently. A student who had transferred from another school in 7th grade had a host of family issues that she was in the middle of, and the pressures put on her at that time were unbelievable. She became an AVID Elective student in high school and graduated, pursuing her four-year degree. She is currently one of our AVID tutors and visits my office frequently to talk and discuss her future, as well as the struggles she continues to have with her family. She is on the road to success, despite her family situation, which shows determination and persistence!
LY: For me, it’s the moment of clarity from the students when they finally see the sunrise over the horizon. The ability to create a plan for a student that ultimately helps them over the hump, and eventually to graduation, is priceless.
In your opinion, what is the most significant way that AVID affects counselors and their work?
KH: AVID allows counselors to advocate for all students, as pertaining to rigorous coursework, social/emotional growth, and four-year college preparation/readiness.
AM: The effect that AVID has had on me personally is that it reconnected me with the reason I went into education in the first place. Because AVID uses strategies that work and centers on what’s best for students, I am empowered each time I interact with AVID students and their teachers. The biggest effect is that I can see that I make a difference in my school and in the lives of amazing kids.
LY: College and career readiness for all students is the mission for professional school counselors. AVID provides the tools necessary to make this happen. Through the collection of best practices with respect to classroom guidance, resources related to College Credit Now programs, and methods that best achieve access to rigorous curriculum for all college-bound students, AVID is the drive and vehicle that allows for our mission to be accomplished.
What is one thing that you wish everyone understood about being a school counselor?
KH: Confidentiality, I feel, is the most misunderstood idea in school counseling. There are many, many times when we are not allowed, due to confidentiality, to share what we discussed with a student. Staff and administration seem to think it is for other reasons and get upset that we cannot share information.
LY: Much of our work is covert or behind the scenes, but yet, is extremely vital in getting students to the finish line and college. Counselors have access to personal and private information and develop trusted relationships with students and parents. These relationships are often the wind beneath the wings, as students fly through a K–12 educational experience.
What is your best piece of advice to current school counselors?
KH: Flexibility is the best piece of advice! A scheduled day works wonderfully until an emergency situation arises, and then the schedule goes up in the air! Students come first, paperwork comes last. Try to consult with every student requesting help while they are in school, and after they leave, the paperwork can be completed.
AM: Identify the things you love about your role, keep doing them well, and praise yourself for EVERYTHING you do to help kids, their families, and the staff at your school.
LY: Counselors need to work to discover and understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Doing this will allow them to effectively, and more importantly, authentically guide a student through this American school experience. For myself, I’ve found Gallup’s StrengthsFinder survey useful.
Thank you, counselors, for all that you do in helping your students’ college dreams become a reality! Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below! We would love to hear from you.