I believe school counselors are critical to helping a student rise above their circumstances. I believe school counselors can feel a student’s triumphs and their fears. They help students unlock their potential. Unfortunately, they do not always have the opportunity to help a student in this manner because of the many tasks that pull them away from this core work. In addition, the high amounts of students that school counselors are assigned to disallow them to engage with each student.
Even still, many school counselors make a way out of no way and they persevere. They rise above these adversities and continue to make a difference. They do this day-in and day-out. This just makes me smile, and I want to give each one of them a standing ovation.
I have had the opportunity to meet so many school counselors over the years, but one school counselor stands out. Jamie Kleer from Paramount introduced me to a school counselor from Sylvania, Ohio. When I got on the phone with him and heard him speak about his work, his passion and his heart, I started to cry tears of joy. I thought you would enjoy meeting him, too.
His name is Bill Geha.
Bill has been a school counselor for over 25 years in Ohio’s Sylvania Schools. Bill primarily works to help many students who are using drugs, or who have parents who are drug addicts.
In 2007, Bill started a group called the P.E.A.C.E. Project with 12 passionate students from Northview and Southview high schools in Sylvania, Ohio. Bill’s goal and mission is to touch the lives of kids who struggle with bullying, abuse, or who simply struggle to fit in. Today, he has over 1,000 kids in the project who share a strong message of respect, integrity, excellence, and who vow to stay drug-free.
Bill writes in a 2015 article, “The formula and framework for the P.E.A.C.E Project is one of ongoing support. Through mentoring, special workshops and projects, every child becomes part of the solution. Over the years, letters from kids tell the story of hearts touched and lives changed, and it happens every day, even today. The kids that are mentored begin the process of reaching out to support others.”
Bill now operates the Parent P.E.A.C.E Project to share with parents about bullying, signs and symptoms of self-harm and suicide, and the signs of drug use and the dangers it presents. The P.E.A.C.E program has won numerous local and regional awards and two national awards.
Bill continues to change lives. It just so happened that when I spoke to him, he was headed to my daughter’s school, Notre Dame Academy, to implement the P.E.A.C.E. project there. He asked me if my daughter would be interested. I said, “I am certain she would.” Now, my daughter is involved and I am thrilled. She is so happy to be a part of this amazing program.
I am certain Bill faced similar adversities that most school counselors face, like an insurmountable work load. Yet Bill, like so many other school counselors, looked in the face of adversity and decided he could continue to make a difference. He thought differently. He did not accept defeat.
I am so grateful for Bill’s persistence and his life-changing work.
Bill joins many other school counselors that continue to make a difference in the lives of students. Bill understands that in order to be an effective school counselor, he must work with teachers and other administrative staff, the lunchroom attendant, the bus driver and the parking lot attendant, to make a difference in a young person’s life. It takes a team of educators to make a difference.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many other school counselors, like Bill, while recently working with Director of Students Services, Beth Barrow of Toledo Public Schools (TPS) during a November 7, 2017 workshop. When I finished my workshop, many of them came up to me to purchase a book and we exchanged stories about their work, which I had the pleasure of thanking them for.
Since it is Thanksgiving, I am taking the time to write why we all should be thankful to school counselors. Here are five reasons to be grateful for their work:
They provide emotional support: When students know they have emotional support, they feel protected, supported, and loved. Students know they have someone to talk to when things are going rough, or even when they need to share something positive. This helps a student maintain a positive attitude and helps improve their academic outcome.
They help students develop better social skills: Social media tends to consume a student’s time outside of school. As a result, most students fail to develop face-to-face or verbal communication skills. School counselors help students develop these skills by helping them practice self-awareness and self-management skills, so they know how to communicate with others. Students also gain empathy skills that show why caring for others are important. This helps not only the school environment, but it also helps our communities become stronger.
They are strong, collaborative members of the educational team: School counselors who work collaboratively with other educators act as figurative quarterbacks to guide effective programs and strategies that help students thrive. This also helps our schools improve, as they understand the culture and climate of our students and can bridge communication gaps between students and other educators.
They intervene when students are having issues with their families: If students are having issues at home, students know they can talk to school counselors to get some help. This can help students who find it challenging to talk to their teachers about these issues. In most cases, school counselors act as mediators between a student’s family and the teachers when student’s experience issues at home.
They guide students to gain higher education and discover their future career path: School counselors help students discover their overall strengths so that they can determine what their calling in life is. In most cases, school counselors are the only people that students get to talk to about their future. They play a critical role in a student’s next steps beyond high school.
That is amazing.
Would you do me a favor? Can you take time to remember your high school counselor this Thanksgiving? Thanks to the internet, we can find just about anyone. Then, can you send them a thank you note? If you are a parent, perhaps you can encourage your child to do the same. Let’s rally around our school counselors and give them a round of applause.
Thank you school counselors for all that you do!
Diana Patton is a Speaker, Social Justice and Integrative Health Advocacy Coach, Author and Attorney. Learn more about her by visiting her website. Click here to read a free chapter of her book, Inspiration in My Shoes, or read more of her articles, here. Interested in having Diana speak to your organization? Listen to this 15 minute video and contact her.