Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Cultivating Student Potential

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Cultivating Student Potential

Article excerpt

I have worked for 13 years as a high school counselor in a school of approximately 1,900 students from urban, suburban, rural areas, and 35 percent of the student body are students of color. During the 2000-2001 year I served as president of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). It was a year of change for ASCA, and being a part of it has revitalized me as a counselor and leader. As I traveled from one end of this country to the other, I listened, watched, and learned. What was confirmed over and over again in my visits was that school counselors play a critical role in students' lives. They offer more than support and compassion; they help shape the futures of young people. In my view, counselors all over this nation want comprehensive, developmental, competency-based counseling programs for their students; they want all students to have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to become healthy, productive, and contributing members of their communities.

Students want to be part of a successful school culture that promotes growth and development. But success takes more than desire, more than having access to resources and support. Real success requires change. ASCA cannot be satisfied with its past accomplishments. A successful future depends on its willingness to do what we ask our students to do, and we ask them to risk, change, and grow. It is in this context that I respond to the four target articles in file December 2001 issue of Professional School Counseling.

As I saw them, the common themes among the articles were: (a) the significant historical events that shaped the profession of school counseling, (b) the role of the school counselor and the school counseling program, (c) the needs of the diverse populations in schools, (d) technology and its use in the counseling program, (e) accountability and evaluation of the counseling program, and (f) advocacy for the school counseling program.

A Proud Past, Bright Future

The significant historical events that shaped the profession of school counseling are important in understanding the profession's future in the 21st Century (Baker, 2001; Green & Keys, 2001; Gysbers, 2001; Paisley & McMahon, 2001). Knowing that in the 1900s and 1910s guidance functions were the responsibilities of the teacher and vocational guidance and vocational education were partners in schools provides school counselors a historical basis for reaching out to teachers and their departments to deliver a counseling program. This historical context suggests school counselors alone cannot expect to implement a comprehensive program to every student. Teachers and school administrators need to "buy in," knowing that the entire school staff is responsible for the success of every student.

This historical context also suggests it is crucial for school counselors to understand that the school climate of 2001 is not altogether unlike the school climate of the 1900s, where the mission of the school was to prepare individuals for work. Today, like in the 1900s, counseling helps individuals to select career paths based on their interests, abilities, and aptitudes (Gysbers, 2001). In understanding our history, we school counselors can build upon our strengths, avoid past mistakes, and implement strong school counseling programs.

It is beneficial to know that in the 1920s and 1930s, there was a shift to a more mental health model that stressed personal adjustment. This move to a mental health model provides school counselors a perspective on the debate over the school counselor's role. The debate is focused on the question, "Are school counselors primarily mental health providers who respond to personal concerns one-to-one, or are they primarily educators who support the mission of the school, where academic achievement is the priority?" For many students and families, the school counselor is the first mental health provider they see (Paisley & McMahon, 2001), and my experience suggests the school counselor may be the only mental health provider they ever see. …

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