Tuesday, 05 February 2019 02:37

National School Counseling Week: Need Help? Reach Out to a Counselor

These are the people who are on the front lines at our schools, making sure students are not only guided toward high school graduation but also healthy outlooks on life.

From helping students who are struggling with difficult emotions to building a school schedule that will lead to a high school diploma, our corps of 60 school counselors do so much to aid in the college- and career-readiness of Canyons District students.

Canyons District lauds the dedication of our counselors by recognizing National School Counselor Week, held each year to focus public attention on the contribution of professional school counselors in our elementary, middle and high schools. The week highlights the impact counselors have on a student’s success as they move from grade to grade. 

Like other counseling centers across CSD, Jordan High’s office is a bustling hive of activity, especially as juniors and seniors start to plan for the next steps in their educational journeys. Last year, thanks to the counseling staff, the school finished second among all Utah high schools in completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known FAFSA. Those are the federal forms that must be submitted before students can obtain financial aid for college. For this and other reasons, the Canyons Board of Education honored the 'Digger counseling staff with the Apex Award for Student Support Services Professionals of the Year — one of the highest awards given by the Board.

Jordan High counselor April Sagala says the role of a high school counselor has changed significantly over the years. “Not too long ago, it was OK to say to a student, ‘Just go to college and eventually you will figure out what you want to do,’” she said. 

“But the landscape has changed with the rising cost of college and post-secondary training programs,” she said. “Our aim now is to help students narrow their focus to about five possible majors or careers, and them expose them to those opportunities before they leave high school.” 

However, perhaps the most important task the counselors assume is working with students struggling with suicide ideation and other emotional issues. In her 20 years as a counselor, she has seen anxiety-related issues increase drastically.  In the past, she’d see just a few kids each year who suffered from anxiety. 

“Now, I see kids several times a day who need help with anxiety,” she said. “Students live in a world of high expectations and they don’t think there are room for stumbles.  But life isn’t like that.  We all have bad days, and sometimes life throws us a curve ball.” 

To be sure, Canyons counselors are working hard to meet the social-emotional needs of the students, she said, and the Canyons District Board of Education and Administration continue to provide resources for mental-health supports. 

Segala, who appeared on ABC4 and KUTV 2News on Monday, Feb. 4, to help kick off National School Counseling Week, encouraged parents to work with counselors before student issues become crises. “Toward the end of a grading term, students and their parents often come to us in a bit of a panic, asking what can be done.  It’s usually not the first moment they realized there were issues with grades or missing assignments — but it’s the first time they come to see us,” she said.  “Counselors can work best with parents and students when they are focusing on preventing the crisis and providing supports to students over a longer period of time.”
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