ACA’s Future School Counselor Award is open to any counseling student in a masters or doctoral degree program (student ACA members),and working toward a career in school counseling at either the elementary, middle or high school level. This is one of four graduate student competitions facilitated by ACA on a yearly basis. This contest was created to recognize graduate counseling students with exceptional insight and understanding about the school counseling profession and the work of professional school counselors who interact with elementary, middle school or high school students. Sponsorship for this award is provided by The Roland and Dorothy Ross Trust and The American Counseling Association Foundation.
Future School Counselor: Grand prize essay 2021
By Margaret (Maggie) Latta-Milord of North Carolina State University
When students learn from home, educators learn and relearn how to see each student as a whole child. The mirage of imagining a student to be simply who they are within the walls of a classroom, within their test scores, their attendance rates, discipline data, or report cards vanishes. Now, as student experiences of home and community are unveiled, educators must consider the interconnectedness of learning and wellbeing at home and at school. With school closure, we have been given an opportunity for reckoning, an opportunity to interact with our students in their wholeness, their humanity, always recognizing the impact of community and environment— eyes open to injustice. As we reopen schools, we can and must do so with a focus on justice and human dignity, making schools safer and more welcoming for all students. We can meet this moment by reframing success more holistically and prioritizing survival, liberation, resilience, and healing above nebulous benchmarks or test scores.
We are living history. In some ways, we share an experience of trauma and loss with the pandemic: loss of life, absence of familiar connections, missed celebrations and every day moments, and, for our students, disruption of childhood joy. We have lived this together, with each experience unique. As school counselors, we share a responsibility to also reflect on, grieve, and resist the simultaneous pre-existing pandemic of racism in our nation and the ways experiences of trauma and violence are not equally distributed. We have not lived these realities together, unequally impacted by the weight of racist violence and systems.
We know that racism is not limited to any one institution or environment. We have watched it play the role of both the historical foundation and the insurrectionist within our nation’s Capitol. Heard it echo as gunfire in sanctuaries. Seen it drive reckless and determined into a crowd. Witnessed its knee on the neck of human dignity for much longer than 8 minutes and 46 seconds…
So have our students.
It is imperative that we sit with discomfort and honestly recognize the grips of racism’s violence within our schools and education system. If we believe schools to be a great equalizer, if we hold the tenets of social justice we claim in our profession, we must be willing to do the work to recognize the history and current realities of inequality and racism and to actively work against racial injustice and violence.
For me, this looks like fostering conversations about race with young students, the very conversations avoided in my own childhood. There are too many paths to these conversations to choose silence: restorative practices and circles, bibliotherapy and diverse books, community events and conversations, racial equity training for staff and community, and anti-racist school culture change. As a school counselor, I have the responsibility to help students foster social emotional skills in resilience; I also have the charge to advocate against racism and its trauma— advocate for a world that does not demand this level of resilience from my students.
Maggie Latta-Milord is an alumni of UNC Chapel Hill and a graduate student at NC State University who is currently completing clinical experiences in school counseling with Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools. Her professional background blends public health, community development, and garden education. Her vision as a school counselor is to support young students in building social emotional skills from an early age and to shape school cultures to be more conducive to the emotional and learning needs of students experiencing trauma and adverse childhood experiences.
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