Tag Archives: advocate

School counselor exercises leadership to spread holiday cheer

Jessica Eagle January 10, 2013

Law_presents[1]For the past seven years as a school counselor at Valdosta High School in Valdosta, Ga., Brian Law has collaborated with the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and coordinated a program to help needy families and children in the district. With the help and input of the school community, Law identifies families in the school district who could benefit from gifts and food during the holiday season. Calling this responsive program VHS Santa’s Elves, Law asks faculty, staff and student organizations to donate food for the family and help wrap presents. The recipients remain anonymous by using a number system for each gift. On the day before Christmas break, Law delivers the food and gifts to DFCS, which then delivers the presents to families ensuring a bright holiday.

This year, after personnel changes at DFCS, the program was not able to continue. However, the caring faculty and staff at Valdosta High requested for Law to look at other avenues for helping local families. Many faculty and staff members felt strongly about doing class projects that instill compassion and character in their students. Law knew of students who had lost their parent and were now being supported by a grandparent. Under Law’s leadership, the school pulled together many gifts for the children, food and gift cards for the caregiver.

For the teachers in grades 10-12, Law was able to coordinate with Lowndes Commission for Children & Youth Family Connection to sponsor a military family whose parent served in the National Guard with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and recently lost a job in the community. With the support of Georgia National Guard Christmas Assistance Program, the participating students, teachers and the support of the school principal, who personally understands the needs of military families, Law collected gifts for the children and food for this special, struggling family.

As the school’s winter break comes to a close, Law reflects on the many positive things that came from this school gift collection. Families received help from the community. Students practiced compassion and examined a greater meaning of the holiday season. In addition, as the school counselor, Law was able to build meaningful relationships with struggling families while talking to the parents and student guardians and delivering the gifts.  He felt the economic barriers breaking down and the families feeling a little more connected to the school community.

Law did all the communicating and coordinating with the receiving families, as well as the shopping and wrapping, outside of school hours. Law even finds the time, year after year, to collect data for this effort allowing him to track the perceptions of student and faculty who participate.  Although they have a few months to tackle next year’s holiday effort, Law and Santa’s Elves are already looking forward to spreading the holiday cheer in a meaningful way once again.

Staff and counselors come together at a Pennsylvania middle school to combat bullying

Stuart Shore December 3, 2012

This is the fourth in a series of school counselor advocacy stories that will run online as a counterpart to the school advocacy stories running in Counseling Today’s Counselor, Educator, Advocate column. To read the first post in this series, click here. To read the second post in this series, click here. To read the third post in this series, click here.

The following story was submitted by professional school counselor Stuart Shore of Bala Cynwyd Middle School in Pennsylvania, regarding the department’s involvement in the school’s anti-bullying program:

Stories about bullying in schools have been making headlines across the country for a number of years.  The results from an anonymous student survey detailing the rates of bullying incidents in our school prompted our building to implement Olweus last year.  Olweus is a school-wide program in which teachers, administration, support staff, counselors and students work together to reduce all forms of bullying behavior.  Through Olweus, the school counselors play a critical role within our school by providing key leadership, working directly with students and parents, communicating with staff and tracking data.  Our department tracks and records all of the bullying referrals made by staff and students.  More importantly, we follow-up with students and parents after an on-the-spot intervention made by the staff member who witnessed bullying or had it reported to them.  We follow-up with all students involved in a bullying incident, including the bully, the target and the bystanders.  The purpose of meeting with the bullies is to identify and label their behavior as bullying, help them understand the impact they are having on other students around them and problem-solve with them to avoid future bullying behavior.  The objective in meeting with the target is to offer support and acknowledge that they were bullied.  Further, we assure them that we will have to intervene to stop the bullying and schedule up a follow-up meeting to make certain they are not bullied anymore.  The school counselors also talk with bystanders to better understand how they felt about witnessing bullying.  We encourage bystanders to take an active stand against the bullying by being an ally to the target.  In addition, we contact parents to keep them informed about the bullying situations that involve their children and to partner with the family to resolve the problem.

These efforts are truly a staff collaboration and there are several facets to the program that were created by other staff members including small-group class meeting lesson plans, staff t-shirts, positive notice cards that are mailed home when a student is witnessed to be an ally, and the preparation for the all school assembly last year.  The school counselors shared in this planning and serve on the 12-person Olweus Committee, which was largely responsible for the implementation of the program and training of all staff.    The School Counseling Advisory Council reviewed various social-emotional school curriculums over a two year period which impacted the school to adopt Olweus.   Our department also created a comprehensive guide to Olweus that all parents receive.  We are encouraged by the preliminary data collected last year, especially in regard to the decreasing number of bullying incidents and repeat bully offender over the course of the year.

ACA asks TRICARE to clarify, adjust counselor certification

Scott Barstow & Jessica Eagle December 1, 2012

Counselors across the country are trying to become certified under new requirements for participation in TRICARE, the health care program operated by the Department of Defense (DoD) for active-duty military personnel, dependents and retirees. In some cases, the process appears to be working, but many counselors are running into problems. This is bad news both for counselors and for TRICARE beneficiaries, who need better access to mental health services.

DoD’s rules state that during a transition period lasting through the end of 2014, counselors can become certified for TRICARE if they have a counseling degree from a regionally accredited program, pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), are licensed and meet supervision requirements. (During the transition period, counselors with a degree from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs can be certified if they have passed either the NCMHCE or the National Counselor Examination.) Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, counselors will only be certified for TRICARE participation if they have a counseling degree from a CACREP-accredited program, pass the NCMHCE and meet supervision requirements.

Many counselors are having problems with the supervision requirements. TRICARE is requiring two years/3,000 hours of post-master’s supervised experience, obtained from a licensed professional counselor. Because counseling is a relatively young mental health profession, many state licensure laws recognize supervision hours conducted under the supervision of a psychologist, psychiatrist or clinical social worker. Consequently, many counselors would not meet the supervision requirements as specified in DoD’s interim final rule.

More problematic than the supervision requirements, however, is that some counselors are being told they will not be certified now if they do not meet the
2015 requirements (degree from a CACREP-accredited program and passage of the NCMHCE) because TRICARE won’t recognize them after the transition period ends.

The American Counseling Association has written the DoD asking that it clarify to TRICARE contractors and administrators that counselors meeting the transition period requirements will continue to be recognized as providers in 2015 and beyond. In addition, the letter asks that TRICARE allow counselors to become certified if they meet the education criteria by the end of 2014 but complete the examination and supervision requirements later. ACA’s letter, which is posted at counseling.org/publicpolicy, also encourages TRICARE to recognize all supervision hours accepted by the individual counselor’s state licensure board.

If you have questions, comments or information about TRICARE certification of counselors, contact Scott Barstow with ACA at sbarstow@counseling.org or 800.347.6647 ext. 234.

ACA stepping up coalition work on education issues

ACA has increased its participation in coalition efforts supporting education funding and improved student outcomes. In October, ACA attended the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) Gala, where speakers including Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed a packed room of educators and education interest group representatives. CEF presented Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) with awards recognizing their dedicated work to improve education funding and policies at the federal level.

Since 2010, ACA has been a partner and supporter of the College Board National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA) “Own the Turf” campaign. NOSCA recently released its second national survey, which takes the pulse of the school counseling profession. The first national survey in 2011, “Counseling at a Crossroads,” found that school counselors were at a point at which they could either become central to student academic achievement in schools or remain on the sidelines as new education efforts ramped up. The 2012 national survey, “True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness,” provides powerful evidence that school counselors and their administrators know how to plot the course of their students’ college and career success. However, significant barriers stand in the way of real progress. The survey identifies barriers such as a lack of focus, training, accountability and resources for counselors, but says that school districts, university programs, public policy and professional organizations can help to overcome these barriers. To read the report, go to counseling.org/publicpolicy. If you have any thoughts on the survey, or input for ACA’s School Counseling Task Force, email Jessica Eagle in ACA’s public policy office at jeagle@counseling.org.

Finally, ACA has joined the America’s Promise Alliance, founded by Gen. Colin Powell. The alliance is the nation’s largest partnership of businesses, nonprofits and other organizations dedicated to 1) ensuring that children get the support they need to succeed, 2) slashing high school dropout rates and 3) helping students graduate ready for college and the 21st-century workforce. Alliance members agree to support “Five Promises” for young people: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others. School counselors are a critical component of this work, and ACA will be promoting school counseling’s role to its partners in the America’s Promise Alliance. In February, ACA will attend the alliance’s Grad Nation Summit, which will focus on successful local, state and national education initiatives.

The anniversary is over, but the celebration continues

Richard Yep

Richard YepAs we close out our yearlong celebration of ACA’s 60th anniversary, I want to share some meaningful moments that took place along the way. I was fortunate to meet up with Robert Shaffer, ACA’s very first president. Well into his 90s, Bob was easily able to recall the years that led up to ACA’s founding, who played roles in the association’s creation and what challenges he faced as our president in 1952-1953.

Then there was a decision by Brooke Collison (ACA president in 1987-1988) to return to the classroom, but this time as a visiting professor in Kenya. He and his lovely wife Joan chose to reach out and share their knowledge, compassion and caring with students and communities halfway around the world. Brooke has been blogging for ACA about his experience at my.counseling.org.

Interacting with these two individuals reminds us that life not only goes on after you serve as ACA president but that it looks significantly better as well! You should know that many of ACA’s past presidents have gone on to serve the profession with distinction and their communities with great compassion. ACA is better because of our 60 past presidents.

One milestone of note during this anniversary year is that our membership increased each and every month. We now stand at more than 52,000 members and continue progressing toward our all-time high membership total (around 58,000 individuals back in 1991). I thank all of you for our growth.

During this 60th anniversary year, we also grew to eight professional counselors on staff. These fellow ACA members have made the commitment to work full time on behalf of the profession, and I am so pleased that they did. I believe their service in the areas of professional development, career consultation, research and public policy advocacy enhances what we do for members.

Although I don’t know what we will look like in another 60 years, I can tell you that 2013 will feature institutional growth, enhanced advocacy and services that are the result of your input. One example is that next month, we will launch a significantly improved ACA website. Our goal is to deliver the content you want in an easy-to-use and responsive format. Let me know what you think.

Have you registered for the ACA 2013 Conference & Expo in Cincinnati from March 20-24? The Super Saver discount deadline is Dec. 15! This event includes more than 400 education sessions and will again feature our pre-conference learning institutes (which require separate registration) and more than 100 exhibit booths. Our keynote speakers will be actress and advocate Ashley Judd and counselor luminaries Allen Ivey and Mary Bradford Ivey. This is one professional conference you absolutely want to attend.

As the year ends, I call your attention to those in need. At the professional level, I encourage you to consider a year-end donation to the ACA Foundation. Chaired this year by Courtland Lee, the ACA Foundation has been instrumental in assisting graduate students, providing help to “our own” in the form of the Counselors Care Fund and supporting ACA through the years. I know the ACA Foundation would appreciate your consideration, so please visit acafoundation.org and give generously.

I also want to express my thanks for the 60 years of work that ACA members have done for their clients and students. You and those who came before you are what make this profession so special. The entire ACA staff wishes a 2013 full of peace, hope and prosperity for you and for those whom you serve.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to contact me at 800.347.6647 ext. 231 or via email at ryep@counseling.org. You can also follow me on Twitter: @RichYep.

Be well.

Laura Gallo: Doing what is best for students in a complex role

Jessica Eagle

This is the third in a series of school counselor advocacy stories that will run online as a counterpart to the school advocacy stories running in Counseling Today’s Counselor, Educator, Advocate column. To read the first post in this series, click here. To read the second post in this series, click here

Laura Gallo, a school counselor at Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa recognizes firsthand the complexities in her profession. She has worked in challenging situations, such as with students who have abusive parents but refuse to leave their homes in order to care for their younger siblings. She has seen resiliency and self-advocacy in students who take on school leadership positions after experiencing bullying because of their sexual orientation. She has worked with students with learning disabilities who are so driven to succeed, they go above and beyond the regular workload requirements with very few accommodations, proving their immense capabilities.

As a professional school counselor Gallo has listened, encouraged, focused on strengths and created opportunities. She points out that school counseling advocacy work stems from having a visible presence in the school. She reaches out to students and is available when a student needs help. In many situations, she relies on her resourcefulness when needing to find students access to computers outside of the school or quiet environments for homework completion outside of a chaotic home. Gallo says this about being a student advocate.

“The many roles a school counselor plays can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing,” she says, “but keeping our role as an advocate at the forefront, helps us keep our focus. “Doing what is best for kids is always the top priority.”