Long considered an integral part of a school’s support system, school counselors bring a wealth of insight and resources to a variety of student-centered issues. As part of a team of mental health experts, school counselors work with students individually and collectively to create a school climate that leads to healthy learning, living, and growth.

The specific roles that a school counselor takes on vary, depending to some extent on needs within the school and the presence of other professionals with overlapping roles and areas of expertise, such as psychologists and social workers. But, in general, as the American School Counselor Association explains, counselors’ work today falls into three domains:

College and Career Development. Historically, school counselors’ primary responsibility has been to help students prepare for the transition to college and/or careers, and this continues to be a central part of their mission. In fact, given the expanding array of learning options available after high school and the fast-changing demands of the workforce, students are coming to rely on counselors more than ever before to provide accurate, comprehensive, and personalized guidance for postsecondary planning.

Academic Development. By working alone with students or teaming with classroom teachers and other education professionals, school counselors help students build the curiosity and academic skills needed to be the best learners possible. For example, counselors are often responsible for overseeing individual student planning. A growing interest in personalization has made this role especially important in recent years, with school counselors working closely with students to explore potential avenues of study and create individual goals for deepening their knowledge in areas of interest.

Social and Emotional Development. As an integral part of their schools’ student support system, counselors tend to work hand in hand with psychologists, social workers, and nurses to create a school climate that promotes healthy learning, living, and personal growth. And should the need arise, they respond to students who are facing personal challenges and steer them toward appropriate services at school or in the community.

The amount of time school counselors devote to each of these domains largely depends on the individual needs of the students they serve and the availability of other mental health professionals to offer direct services to students. Ideally, the school counselor is part of a building-wide team that includes a school psychologist and social worker. Typically, school psychologists administer psychological evaluations for individual students and oversee the creation of individualized learning plans for students with special needs, while social workers tend to focus on student needs outside school.

Why Social and Emotional Learning?

Since the pandemic of 2020, children of all ages have lost two years of social and emotional development due to school closures and virtual learning. During this time period, students no longer had in-person social interaction with peers and adults. This has impacted students’ communication skills, and self-esteem, and caused an increase in mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. St. Joseph Academy recognized this societal issue and decided to implement Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into the curriculum this 2022-2023 school year.

St. Joseph Academy utilizes the School-Connect SEL Curriculum and is led by Ms. Gina Umosella and Mrs. Cathleen Sanders in the Counseling Department. In this curriculum, students will be exploring five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. Each competency has weekly lessons with a wide range of topics to help students build these skills.

Research shows that students who have participated in SEL do better academically, have improved attitudes and behaviors, and act out in disruptive ways less often. Students who are socially and emotionally competent are more likely to have friends and feel connected to school, which leads to positive results and high student satisfaction rates. Additionally, studies show that students with strong social and emotional competence are 50% more likely to graduate high school and twice as likely to earn a college degree and have a full-time job by age 25 (Committee for Children, 2022).

What sets St. Joseph Academy apart?

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the national recommended student-to-counselor ratio is 250:1. In 2020 only three states nationally were able to obtain a this ratio while the rest struggled to meet the recommended number. St. Joseph Academy prides itself on having a 50:1 student-to-counselor ratio that allows our very skilled and devoted counseling staff the opportunity to meet with your student as often as needed.

Once your student steps foot on St. Joseph Academy’s campus, they will be assigned to one of the three counselors on staff, and that advisor will follow them through their entire high school experience. Within the college counseling model, freshmen are introduced to the program early in the fall semester with Naviance- a web based program developing the skills needed for college, career and life. As students progress through St. Joseph Academy, the college counselor meets regularly with each student and in junior and senior year, the students are part of a college seminar program highlighting the search, application and decision making process.