With a new school year in progress, Southeast Polk high school guidance counselors Kari Fast and Amy Daugherty are in full swing. Their work with students is an important balance of harnessing academic, social, and emotional skills. This effort helps students successfully complete high school as well as develop and implement post-graduation plans.
A formal curriculum is in place throughout the school year to guide students through these processes. According to Fast, “From there we spend the four years of high school delving into what the plan is for after high school and how to get there.”
According to Daugherty, initiatives include “discussing college and career planning, providing different avenues of academic support to create success, teaching self-advocacy, and collaborating with teachers to help students find success in the classroom.” Support at home is also important. “We meet with parents or guardians to create partnerships with the high school,” she says.
Recognizing that high school graduation is a beginning rather than an ending, they work closely with students to prepare for that transition. With so many options available, Fast says the experience can be overwhelming. Fast and Daugherty help mitigate the stress. For example, they provide guidance to students who are filling out college applications and applying for scholarships.
Knowing the students individually to understand their interests and needs is paramount to helping them implement plans. Fast adds, “Once I know more about their strengths and preferences, I can better assist them to choose the path or explore the opportunity that best fits their needs.”
There is one particular skill both counselors agree is critical for long term success – self advocacy. According to Daugherty, developing this skill will help students utilize the resources available throughout their lives.
Fast adds, “Graduates should walk out of here feeling confident and ready to tackle whatever life brings their way.”
For both counselors, the students are the highlight of their day. Fast credits students with curiosity, initiative, and appreciation. Says Daugherty, “Watching students grow from when they arrive as freshmen to when they graduate as seniors is a rewarding experience that is hard to explain.”
They also credit their colleagues in the counseling department with the student-centered and team-centered environment in which they work. Says Fast, “I am surrounded by great people who work hard to put students first and help them to prepare for the future.”