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Guidance counselors’ jobs change with pandemic

The last half of the 2019-20 school year has looked different in schools all across America, with the year being cut short and students moving to distance learning.

One school position that has looked particularly different during this time is school guidance counselors, as they struggle to guide without the typical face-to-face interaction with students.

“The end of the school year is always a whirlwind, and this year is the same in the fact that it is a whirlwind – but just a completely different, one-of-a-kind whirlwind,” said Belgreen High School guidance counselor Georgia Jeffreys.

Jeffreys said normally around this time of year, she is finalizing transcripts and ensuring seniors are ready for graduation and prepared for whatever their future endeavors might be.

She said this also, in typical years, has meant getting to share in their memories as they complete their high school careers and their excitement as they look forward to what comes next.

“We had a day celebrating all the great places they would be going, from school to work and everything in between,” Jeffreys said.

This year, of course, has been different, not having the usual face-to-face interaction with students, but Jeffreys said it has been just as important to keep all lines of communication open.

“I know this season is very exciting but also very nerve racking, so as mentioned before, I think making sure they know that I am still available if they need me (is important),” Jeffreys said.

Phil Campbell guidance counselor LuAnne Vickery said she has always wanted students to know she has an “open door” policy, especially now.

“Keeping contact with the students has been my No. 1 concern,” Vickery said. “I want to make sure they have what they need as they move out of this school year.”

Vickery said she has been posting scholarship applications on a Facebook page for students and answering any questions they have about transcripts, scholarships, college registration or other questions pertaining to their future.

Jeffreys said she is using the Remind App to stay in direct contact with seniors while answering emails from parents.

Jeffreys said while there are still several steps to finalize for seniors to be ready to begin college, luckily she was able to finish helping students through the majority of the college application and scholarship process before schools closed because of the pandemic.

She said, even in this season, it is important to see the brightest side of every situation.

“While there is so much uncertainty in the world, it is most important to focus on what you can control and not worry about what is out of your control,” Jeffreys said. “None of us can control a pandemic, but we can control how we deal with a pandemic. Yes, this is not a traditional end or beginning for our seniors, but they are able to experience things that no other graduating class has/will experience. These times spent with family will make memories for a lifetime. So, while somethings are different, different doesn’t always mean bad.”

Vickery said although she wishes seniors were able to experience all of the “lasts” of their high school careers, she hopes they have learned lessons that will help them in the future.

“My advice is to be prepared to change,” Vickery said. “Change is not a bad thing and sometimes can help us to grow and learn.  You do not know what the future holds, but remember that you can do anything you set your eyes on. You might have anxiety and some fear during the summer and upcoming school year.  Take one step at a time, and know that I am here if you need anything at all.”