School Counselors Offer Academic Help, Advice With Problems

ANCHOR: School counselors in California have more students under their care than their counterparts anywhere in the country.  As KQED’s Rachel Dornhelm reports, these guides through academic and emotional life are raising awareness about their jobs during National School Counseling Week.   

(Sound of lockers slamming)

RACHEL DORNHELM: Classes are out for the day at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, and students are flocking into the office of counselor Alice Phillips office for academic help.

ALICE PHILLIPS: Yeah, come get tutoring, come get tutoring....

DORNHELM: And for plenty of other needs.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, you can call your Dad.  Just dial 9 first. Hi, how are you?

DORNHELM: Phillips addresses everything from academics to family problems as counselor to the school’s 811 students.  She says sometimes she meets parents who went to the school themselves.

PHILLIPS:  And they say, "are you the 6th grade counselor?" and I say, "well, actually I am THE counselor for all the grades," and they’re like “Oh no... you know I used to come here and there was a counselor for every grade".

DORNHELM:  California averages about one counselor for every thousand students.  They are trained to deal with bullying and mental illness, as well as academics. Loretta Whitson is executive director of the California Association of School Counselors.

LORETTA WHITSON:  We’re having, for example, increased suicide rates across the state, so people are starting to ask locally, how can we prevent that?

DORNHELM: Whitson says parents are calling for more counseling, saying their kids need that kind of extra support.

I’m Rachel Dornhelm, KQED News.

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