Updated Counseling Program At SJ

Thomas Quigley ’16

No system is ever perfect in the sense that nothing can be done to improve it. Clearly, the Strake Jesuit Counseling Department had its strengths and weaknesses in prior years. While many students found that scheduled meetings with their counselors seemed infrequent and too few in number, most would say that the meetings were helpful and personal. The department found itself last year in need of a great deal of change to provide more access to all students.

Beginning this academic year, Strake Jesuit’s Counseling Department underwent a massive overhaul and entirely changed its approach. In order to concentrate more attentively on the different spectrums of student life across all four years, the department was split into the Academic & Personal Counseling Department, headed by Ms. Veazey, and College Counseling Department, led by Mr. Champenoy.

It could not be more clear. The focus of these changes is to provide greater access for students in a more effective manner. For the Academic & Personal Counseling Department, this comes to fruition during class day rotation. For an entire class period each rotation, students now have the ability to talk through issues and problems with their counselor while also taking a specific focus on how to prepare for the rigorous college application process.

It could be said that the purpose of Academic & Personal Counseling Department is to provide more defined decision-making skills as well as better coping mechanisms for things like the transition from grade school to high school, the possible shock of the new school year, or the beginning of standardized testing periods. Counseling classes focus on the immediate as well as possible future situations and issues. In essence, they focus on the questions, “How are you doing right now?” and “How are you preparing yourself for tomorrow?”

“I have found the experience positive and am encouraged that students are actively participating in conversations about our focused topics. Finding perspective and achieving a healthy balance is the key to a successful year,” explains Mrs. Carol Bailey, the Junior Academic & Personal Counselor.

What this means for students is a wider spectrum of influence within the Counseling Department itself. While common issues among the student body may have gone unnoticed in years prior, the new department provides a weekly forum for each and every student on campus.

In years prior, a student struggling with a personal issue may have gone unnoticed, and an academic issue may have slipped through the cracks for a small period of time. With the enhanced focus on both sides of the student’s time at Strake Jesuit, the likelihood of missing these warning signs decreases dramatically. In addition to being self-supported, the Academic & Personal Counseling Department is checked and protected by the individual, personal meetings in the College Counseling Department, or vice versa. Thus, the department as a whole proves itself more accountable for its actions and finds a more reasonable path to success for the greatest number of students.

“I feel I have more time to concentrate on specific colleges, options, and choices with my students, rather than focus on a failing grade or a personal issue during our College Counseling meetings,” explained Mr. Tom Kulick, one of the College Counselors.

With the changes, Mr. Kulick focuses on the more effective use of time during the already time-limited meetings. As a result, the Academic and Personal Counseling Department serves as a mediator which deals with the immediate issues at hand, while the College Counseling Department focuses on the long-term planning for college.

In addition to the more efficient departments, Mr. Kulick also mentioned a key detail to consider. With the departments divided, more individual counselors find themselves with the ability to spend time attending conferences and making personal connections with college representatives, thus adding to the pull and influence on which Strake Jesuit also prides itself.

While excited and pleased with the changes to the approach this year, Mr. Kulick did make a point to indicate that there will be some difficulties and issues with adjusting to the system. All counselors are new to a system that is mainly unproven and too young to be fully evaluated at the current moment. In the meantime, don’t rush to judgment without more time to see how everything develops and grows, but certainly voice your support for the new system to either of your counselors during your next meeting.