Growing up as a student in the public school system, there were school community members who were seen as staples of the building. Of course, everyone knew their principal, their teachers, whether general education or specialist teachers, and the nurse. However, there was one community member who often went unnoticed: the school counselor. 

During my days as a student, we called them “guidance counselors.” Oftentimes they worked in isolation and solely “guided” students as they prepared to transition from one school to the next. I didn’t need to see my counselors often as it pertained to their role as the counselor; however, because I was involved in many school activities, I came in contact with them quite often. 

Although the role of the school counselor today is quite different from the role of the guidance counselor of 20-plus years ago, my counselors – Mrs. Glover, Mr. Deleon, and Mr. Rubin – will always be considered educators who made an impact on my life. It was these three educators who inspired me to do what I feel is my life’s calling.

As the profession of school counseling evolved, the role of the school counselor changed. We are more than just “vocational advisors;” we are certified/licensed professionals who work to improve success for all students. No longer are we providing “random acts of guidance.” Instead, we provide comprehensive school counseling programs aligned to the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) Model. 

We help students apply academic achievement strategies. We help students manage their emotions and apply interpersonal skills. We prepare all students for postsecondary options (higher education, military, or work force). We are leaders, advocates, collaborators, consultants, and data-driven educators.

Students and parents alike can reach out to their school counselors by stopping in their offices, saying hello in the hall, or simply requesting an appointment by calling the school or sending an email. 

While school counselors do not provide therapy, we do provide school-based counseling in an effort to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of the students we serve.

No school is an island, but with each stakeholder working together to ensure the social, emotional, and academic growth and success of every student we have been charged with, we can build strong, future leaders who will blaze a trail for the generations to follow.

We are school counselors. We were born to make a difference!

About the Author: Ms. na’Khia S. Washington, M.Ed., is the school counselor at John F. Hartranft Elementary School in Philadelphia, and is also a certified life coach. She is a doctoral candidate at Northcentral University.