Guidance Department Alters Counselor Structure

September 28, 2018

Westside’s Guidance Department recently implemented a major change to their former structure. As of last year, students were given only an academic counselor. This year, students have both an academic as well as social emotional counselor. This gives students the opportunity to meet with multiple trusted adults to not only discuss their academics, but personal conflicts that may be occurring.

Head of the Guidance Department, Dr. Vicki Londer, said she feels as though the students were not given enough resources previously.

“We have seen an increased need for [resources for] students with mental health issues; overall wellness issues if you will, and we as counselors in our department felt as if we weren’t meeting the students’ needs,” Londer said. “We weren’t able to give them everything they needed; the time they needed, the support they needed, just in general we felt as if we were reacting to everything and not really doing much to be proactive in helping them be more successful.”

Londer said how the department proceeded to meet and discuss future options on how to provide the students with a better environment.

“We met last January as a department, offsite, and had an entire day to talk about if we could have the ideal department, how we would structure it so we could better meet the needs of kids,” Londer said. “We found that [some] counselors would really rather do the social emotional piece with students and [some] counselors would really rather focus on the academics.”

This change gives each student to have an academic counselor as well as a social emotional counselor. This allows them to benefit from having two adults in the building that they can go to; something which has already invoked a positive impact.

“We already have seen a tremendous benefit with our students just from working with our deans and administration and those kids that are maybe just struggling,” Londer said. “They’re already having kids meet with a social emotional counselor just so they have that other person to touch base with and how they can build that relationship.”

Ted Dondlinger has been an academic counselor in the past years, but has now transitioned into the position of a social emotional counselor. Dondlinger said he feels that not only the students are benefited by the change, but the counselors are as well.

“I get to do the things I do well,” Dondlinger said. “I go home the past three weeks and just feel very fulfilled, because I’m doing stuff that I love. Anytime [students] get to work with [their] strengths and [their] weaknesses I think positive things are going to happen.”

Senior Neha Khalid said she has found having both a social emotional counselor and an academic counselor to be very helpful and is overall supportive of the change.

“The change in the counselors has impacted me, because it’s been really nice to just be able to go to a counselor and tell them how my day’s been, and have them listen and give me advice on stuff that an academic counselor couldn’t tell [me],” Khalid said.

Khalid said she believes the change will help students better balance their lives inside and outside of school.

“I think the change Westside made for the counselors is a really beneficial one for the students, because you have two seperate parts of your life; inside of school and outside of school, and Westside made a change that reflects that,” Khalid said.

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