How counselors are working to support students

Ethan Edwards, Reporter

In every high-school environment, all staff play a key role in making the school what it is. One of the many areas of staff devoted to helping students is the counseling office. The counseling office helps students in a variety of different areas. This could be giving students mental and emotional support, helping them plan for their future, or change their class schedule. 

According to Bradley University, students that had access to strong counseling programs in pre-college education reported feeling more successful with academics post high school and overall more confident.  

In recent years, the counseling office has made changes to better help students and make services more extensive. The guidance office is newly staffed with specific people to serve all of its key roles. The guidance office actually only used to have two guidance counselors, who oversaw all of the key areas of counseling.

“Our role used to be very general,” Courtney O’Connor, the college and career counselor, said.  

However, the counseling center is now split up into three areas with a total of five staff members. This change was made so that way each service the counseling center provided could get more individual attention.

Guidance counselors

Guidance counselor Carrie  Hoffman works with students whose last names begin with A through K, while Chris Headrick works with students whose last names start with L through Z.  They help with scheduling of classes, enrolling students in dual credit classes, preparing students for college entrance testing, and providing students with additional support if necessary. The guidance counselors started a new check in program this year. 

“Mr. Headrick and I also did freshman check-ins this year,” Hoffman said. The check ins were a way for the counselors to ensure the freshmen were doing okay in a new environment.

School psychologist

School psychologist, Bethany Hoffert, provides students with individual emotional support. 

“I worked with a group last year but mainly provide individual counseling,” Hoffert said. 

Hoffert is also in charge of 504 Plans. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, a 504 plan outlines the accommodations that need to be provided to students with disabilities in order for them to access their education and school related activities.

College and careers

O’Connor explained that her role in the college and careers department changes depending on the semester. 

“My role differs from the fall to the spring,” O’Connor said. In the fall, she sets up college visits for students and helps them apply to colleges of their preference. 

She is also available to set up meetings with college representatives and will attend those meetings if the student desires so that she can learn more about the students’ interests. This enables her to discuss and help the student plan for their future. 

In the spring, her work is focused on getting juniors ready for college. This entails having discussions with the junior students and starting to get them prepared for the college visits, meetings, and application processes that they will be involved with in the fall semester of their senior year.

How has COVID affected the counselors work?

In addition to these changes, the counseling office has also had to work through an ever-changing Coronavirus pandemic. However, all the services they would normally offer are continuing, just in different ways. 

If students are doing in-person learning, they are always welcome to stop by the counseling office. If students are remote all of the counseling services are still available and can be done through Zoom.

Unfortunately, having less in-person communication is not working as well for the counseling office. They are concerned that the pandemic is going to change how they interact with students for time to come. 

“I’m just used to students popping in,” Hoffert said. “I am worried that some students will just email us from now on.” 

Interaction with and getting to know the students is also a challenge because many, such as Carrie Hoffman, in the counseling center are new. 

“One of the things I praised myself on at Normal West was my relationships I had with students and families,” Hoffman said. “And so being new this year, I knew it would be hard to establish that, but even harder when nothing is in person.” 

Despite all of the challenges, the counselors are making student connections their top priorities right now. They would like all of the students to know that they are available to provide support whether you attend school in-person or remotely.