A school counselor wears several hats. College advisor, career readiness consultant, mentor and life coach, to name a few.
The counselors at the South Sioux City Community School District are no different. They deal with a bevy of students, all with their own unique circumstances– some good and some not.
“For me, I don't think I could be as resilient as some of these kids,” said Kelli Rahn, counselor at the middle school.
“It's almost like you become a social worker in addition to doing transcripts,” added Danielle Panowicz, high school counselor.
Last week, Feb. 5-9, was National School Counseling Week. Those in the school counseling career deserve the recognition; however, it could be argued that one week isn't enough.
“You get so involved and want the best for them,” said Tammy Carson, Cardinal Elementary counselor. “You get to know some of them pretty well. I've been as excited to see some of our students graduate as I was with my own son.”
In a proclamation, the American School Counselor Association credited school counselors with being actively engaged in helping students examine their abilities, strengths, interests and talents; working in a partnership with parents as they encounter the challenges of raising children in today's world; focusing on positive ways to enhance students' social/personal, educational and career development; and working with teachers and other educators to provide an educational system where students can realize their potential and set healthy, realistic and optimistic aspirations for themselves.
There are some unique challenges in the South Sioux City School District, one of which being that many students are first-generation college students. This puts a lot of pressure on the counselors to provide plenty of information and reassurance to students and their families.
“Families today really look to us for support and ways to help their children, more so than in the past, I think,” said Linda Swanson, high school counselor.
“We try to advertise the importance of college in each building,” added Jason Craig, high school counselor. This is through bulletin boards detailing the high school seniors' college plans all the way down to simple signage.
While the job of a counselor is no doubt difficult, it's also one of the most rewarding in the school district.
“I enjoy when I see a kid apply a skill I taught them and watch them mature,” said Ryan Vondrak, middle school counselor.
“It feels good to know you've made a difference,” said Stephanie Hames, high school counselor. “Also, they make an impact on us.”
The counselors see the best and worst circumstances in the school district and they all agreed that the students at South Sioux City are some of the greatest.
“They're the most respectful kids,” said Dr. Debbie McCloy, high school counselor. “I'd put our kids against any kids in Nebraska or Iowa.”