High school counselors play vital role in students lives
By Marcy Curtis
School counselors are often the silent heroes helping students cope and thrive in life and the educational process. They are student advocates.
This school year more than ever, the counselors within the schools have become a life line to the students. COVID-19 has come with a lot of challenges for students. Things like remote learning, cancelled events, quarantining and COVID testing all have some type of effect on students.
“You may wonder what a school counselor does on a daily basis,” said North Sanpete Assistant Superintendent Odee Hansen. “If you think about what a parent does for their child that is what a school counselor does for their child. They guide them, comfort and teach students. They cry with them, they celebrate with them, they sit in the dark times with them and help them find the light of the day.”
Jon Hafen, a counselor at North Sanpete High School stated that students are “amazing,” and that it’s a testament to what is happening inside their homes. Yet there is also the flip side and many that struggle. There are things at home that may not be right. There may be anxiety, depression and real life struggles that students are faced with.
“We are fortunate to live in a small community where we can help each other out and be aware and care for each other,” Hafen said. “I love this valley and the people in it. We have a great opportunity and responsibility to help each other out and I can’t think of a better place for that to happen than right here in Sanpete.”
Whether one realizes it or not, Covid-19 has impacted students’ lives. It has affected their regular school routines, social life, work and their academics. Those who struggled to maintain passing grades before COVID just got hit with another huge challenge on top of the struggles they already had, and those who excel academically at times have had to learn a whole new way to attend school, and participate in extracurricular activities.
One student said that it’s hard to even enjoy the school year. The things that were once fun have now been taken from them: assemblies, dances, dress up days, pep rallies, and even the simple things like sitting with friends in the hall, singing the school song together or just a passing smile.
“Masks for me have been one of the biggest challenges this year,” said counselor Heather Allred. “I am fairly new to the school so recognizing students is harder for me and then hearing them when they talk is a challenge. I meet with students individually and with their masks on I can’t see their expressions and when a student is upset, they talk softer and asking them to repeat themselves in these types of situations is not ideal.”
While some struggles may be more obvious, there are those who struggle from the inside. A story recently posted on CNN talked about a sophomore football player who loved the sport more than life itself. Once COVID-19 hit and the sport in his state was canceled, he started sleeping more, missing classes, his grades started dropping. His parents stated that he would always tell them he was ok and he just missed the team BBQ’s, practices and his coaches. This student committed suicide and his parents are now speaking out to help other parents see the signs.
While suicide may not be something that we are seeing here locally on a rise, depression and the way students are handling the situation are something to be watching for.
“Trying to help students navigate their teenage years has always been a challenge, but it feels harder than ever,” said Ben Cox, North Sanpete counselor. “We need parents who are proactive and willing to involve themselves positively in their students’ lives. This is one of the biggest factors in success and happiness that I see in students. When I know we have parents who help and engage, I know we can make a positive difference.”
Hafen suggested parents communicate often with their children, even when they are pushed away. They absolutely need you and love you; they are just at an age when they think it’s a funny way of showing it. Celebrate with them, cry with them and listen to them, he said. “Our students are amazing; I get to work with the greatest kids there are.