What does a high school counselor do?

The students entered the classroom with uncertainty. This is the first time for a Cincinnati Voices of Youth during Summer Scholars at Shroder High School. Journalism as advocacy has a long history, but local students were not yet acquainted. Soapbox worked with Shroder High School students to give them the opportunity to share their perspectives on issues important to them.

Over the next three weeks, students settled and began to find their voice. Following a lesson on solutions journalism, students brainstormed a list of problems that currently impact them and their peers. This included low self-esteem, bullying, lack of money, and tough family situations. They chose the overarching topic: Jobs for Teens - How to Create and/or Find Employment.

Sharing personal experiences as well as the stories of those they knew, they spoke of the independence and autonomy that a steady paycheck can bring a person. They examined the link between financial security and the self-confidence being competent at a job gives a young person.
“We all need money. Maybe for bills, maybe for food, maybe to get out of an abusive situation, but young people may not know where to go to get jobs.”
– Voices of Youth participant
One student had started a lemonade stand business the past year and saved $1,000 in a savings account. Another had begun dog-walking with her twin sister. Most of the students were more interested in entrepreneurship than traditional careers, but all of them recognized the benefits of working as a teenager. One particular question was raised at multiple times. How does a teenager find out which places will hire and pay them?

One Voices of Youth participant, Kendall Crawley, chose to interview his CPS counselor on her history and experience helping students find employment for a profile story.  

Ms. Hannah Held is a counselor at Shroder High School. She collaborates with outside partners, including Soapbox and Wordplay Cincy, to introduce new experiences to Shroder students in the Summer Scholars program. A portion of their interview follows:

Kendall: First, what made you become a counselor?
Ms. Held: I grew up with teachers and other counselors in my family, so I had some experience with them and loved working with kids. Having experience with education, plus love for working with kids, I found the beauty of that with school counseling. 

Kendall: Why did you choose to become a counselor?
Ms. Held: Well, I always wished I had a counselor—someone who was very supportive of what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be when I grow up. I didn't really have that when I was your age.  When I started school counseling in my schooling, I learned pretty quickly how important it is to be a continuous form of support for somebody. It's a great way to get to know people and work with kids, but also help them figure out who they want to be when they grow up, and along the way, help support them with any emotional needs that they have, and as well as uplift them and empower them. Just be there for them.

Kendall: What do you do as a counselor?
Ms. Held: Well, I do a lot. The biggest job and the reason why I do what I do is I work specifically with kids. Whether I'm doing groups, or I'm in the classrooms, or working individually with students, my biggest priority is always to be working face to face with a student. When we were in COVID [lockdown], we did virtual, but to be working with students is the main job. I also do scheduling, which is one of the things that’s not my favorite thing to do, but it's definitely necessary to make sure that you guys have the classes that you need to feel successful.  I'm also working with teachers, admin, and mostly everyone in this building, to make sure that we're all supporting the kids. The kids' needs come first through advocacy, through bringing in different partners and resources, and then working closely with those partners to make sure there are students that are making their emotional career and educational needs.

Kendall: Have you ever been too busy to help other people?
Ms. Held: Ooh, that's a good question. Have you been too busy to help other people? Counselors are very busy, so we are always on the go. We have had to learn pretty quickly that we have to really prioritize what's most important. And once again, for me, that's my students. So, even if I'm really, really busy, I make it a point to make it clear to somebody, whether it's a student, or maybe one of my colleagues, one of the teachers... If I'm busy, just know that doesn't mean that I am not hearing you. It just means that I am prioritizing something that maybe is a little more crucial at this moment, that doesn't mean I'm going to forget about you. It means that maybe sometimes I have to prioritize something that's maybe an emergency or something critical and then move forward. But I wouldn't say that I'm ever too busy for someone.

Kendall: How many schools have you been a counselor at?
Ms. Held: This is going to be my third school. I've been at two CPS schools, including this one, and then I was at a school in the Lakota District.

Kendall: How did you become a counselor?
Ms. Held: After high school, I went to college at University of Louisville where I studied psychology and linguistics, and knew I wanted to do something in education. I was leaning towards speech therapy, but I was able to shadow with the school counselor while I was in my undergrad. I quickly fell in love with it. That’s when I decided to get my graduate degree at University of Cincinnati for school counseling. Then, I did some internships, some shadowing, and once I graduated, I got my first job.

Kendall: Is there anything we missed or didn't cover?
Ms. Held: What I'll say about school counseling; I think it's something that maybe not everyone understands all the time. Some people call it guidance counseling, where you're just doing academic advising, but school counseling to me is something that's comprehensive, which means it's (like) holistic. So, it's focusing on the person as a whole, not just someone's academics and it's not just someone's career, but on the whole entire person. When a student comes in, how do I see the person fully? Not just the behaviors I see in a classroom or the grades that they get, but how do I see them fully? That's how I see school counseling—you see the whole entire process.

Kendall: How would you help somebody with their career goals?
Ms. Held: That's one of my favorite things to do. When a student comes in and they're like, "Hey, I'm interested in this, and want to learn more about it." Or "Hey, I don't know what I want to do at all." The fact that they're asking questions shows me that they have a desire to want to learn more about themselves. The first thing is always making sure that you're building a relationship with the student. So, building a counselor-student relationship where they feel comfortable enough to even come into my office in the first place is important.

When we start talking, I like to just get to know them more. I want to learn more about your family. Your family in the past, what have their careers been like? Is that something that you would've looked towards or are you looking towards something maybe a little different?

What are your hobbies? What are you currently interested in? What are some of the things that you have a passion for? Is it something to do with computers? Is it something to do with sports? Is it something to do with history, literature? Then, we also kind of look at what are some of maybe the soft skills or the skills that you already have and yourself that maybe you don't even know about? So, are you someone that's really good at conflict resolution? Are you someone who's good at working in teams? Are you someone who likes to work alone?

It gives you kind of a great starting point and foundation to show like, Oh, hey, I'm good at this. And I like this. There's a job that covers both of those things. That's kind of how we start from there.

Kendall Crawley
is a rising eighth grade student at Shroder High School and aspiring photographer. He is a member of the first Soapbox Voices of Youth cohort that took place this June during the 2022 Summer Scholars program.

Voices of Youth is made possible with underwriting support from Cincinnati Public Schools. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of Cincinnati Public Schools.
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