Wednesday, October 7, 2015

School Counselors Expanding Outside Traditional Roles

School counselors are important aspects of the school system. They take care of the emotional needs of students, help schedule classes, and act as a bridge between school and home. In addition to these tasks, school counselors have shown that they are able to make an impact on the larger community through establishing meaningful connections between teachers and students, and addressing the needs of the surrounding areas. School counselors don’t just support their students. Their actions impact the outside community, teachers, and faculty members. From making sure families and students are supplied with adequate food and clothing to creating mentorship programs, school counselors make a significant impact that extends past their traditional roles.

Last year in the Spokane school district, 57.8% of students were enrolled in the free and reduced lunch plan (OPSI). With over half of the student population needing nutritional support, there is a need in the community to reach out to those who struggle with hunger. When visiting local schools, the counselors and administration at a local elementary school are implementing programs to help provide food and clothing to students and families in need. Students who are hungry or don’t have proper fitting clothes fall behind in school. It becomes harder for hungry students to focus on their school work and learn as best as they can. In addition to being hungry, some students may have lower self-confidence if their clothes are always dirty or don’t fit correctly. The school counselors at a local elementary have noticed that as leaders, it is possible to make efforts to help improve the basic care of these students. By having fully stocked shelves of clean clothing in the counseling office, students who feel insecure arriving at school are able to ask the school counselor for a change of clothes. It helps the student feel more comfortable at school and be able to focus on learning. On the other side of the counseling office stands a wall of boxed food. Here, the school offers families in need meals to take home on the weekends so that they can receive adequate nutrition. Small steps like having free and reduced lunch, clean clothes, and an in-school food bank make a large impact on the learning environment in the school as well as the outside community. They care for our basic needs so that students and families can focus on learning and participating in the community. School counselors are able to create and advocate for these programs to be able to make a positive impact in the lives of others.


In observation of how our local school counselors are changing lives, we recently visited a Middle School where the school counselors shared with us the Check & Connect program that she has implemented at her school. It is a mentor program that she has personally seen work at all grade levels. She mentioned that peer-to-peer programs are wonderful for students still engaged at school, but Check & Connect really draws in those who are starting to, or have already, disengaged. Check & Connect pairs at risk students directly with a faculty mentor. Each mentor personally tracks their mentee(s) activities to ensure that they are on track with grades, behavior and attendance. The beauty of this program is the individualized attention that these struggling students desperately need. According to the Check & Connect website (2015), “At the core of Check & Connect is a trusting relationship between the student and a caring, trained mentor who both advocates for and challenges the student to keep education salient”. This personalized approach is the best way to reach these students who have already given up on themselves. Rather than just being another face in the crowd they have a person they can go to and who will seek them out. For many of these students this could be their last resort before dropping out for good. This program gives them a face to show that someone cares. Someone is rooting for them to succeed. It gives them a reason to keep going and someone to show them the way.


This program is meant primarily to prevent dropouts, but it seems as though it would help with so many other issues schools face. This is a tool that school counselors use to unite everyone and empower the teachers to reach out and engage with students who otherwise might not get positive attention. This creates a whole new dynamic and atmosphere for the school. 


About | Check & Connect Student Engagement Intervention Model | Institute on Community Integration |
University of Minnesota. (2015). Retrieved September 22, 2015.

OPSI. (2014). Washington state report card. Retrieved from

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