This year at Alliance High School, Nate Lanik and Jenny Willard are the school counselors. The counselors provide individual academic planning, goal setting, short-term counseling to students and referrals for long-term support. They also collaborate with families, teachers and administrators, advocate for students and collect data to identify student issues or needs. Counselors help students who need short-term counseling. Short-term counseling helps the counselors identify a need, but if they see that the student needs long-term counseling, they provide the student with higher resources such as a therapist.
Lanik went to college at Chadron State College. He got his bachelor’s in math education and a master’s in school counseling. The reason why he wanted to be a counselor is to help kids on a social and emotional level. Willard graduated from The University of Nebraska. She majored at Lincoln, Nebraska in Human Sciences and Education and a minor in education. Willard then received her master’s degree in school counseling k-12 from the Concordia University-Wisconsin. Willard wanted to be a counselor to help and she has always felt that school should be a place you feel comfortable coming to. She also feels that it should be a place where you can ask for help and build relationships. In college, Willard debated between going into clinical mental health or school counseling. “For me, I felt school was the place I could reach the most students and help build that safe place for students, in order to help them be most successful,” she added.
The counselors focus on a combination of the students’ goals/academics and emotional behavior; Jenny Willard believes both go hand to hand. With most of these situations, the counselors need to refer out. Referring out is to help overall benefit the student, as the school is not conducive to the therapeutic process. Lanik states that the counselors are doing anything and everything they can to help solve problems. “As the counselor you want whatever the student needs in their situation. Some students need academic support or guidance whereas others need someone to listen and understand.”
Willard believes that the most effective use in her life is time to advocate for students’ needs and/or successes in order to aid in their academic journey. Lanik however, believes that mental health is the most effective use of a school counselor’s time.
When asked if he feels like he is impacting students’ lives, he replied, “ I hope so, it feels like it. I guess only time will tell. When working in the moment, it may not feel like much, but after reflecting back on the past, I would say I have had the opportunity to impact a lot of lives through teaching, coaching and counseling.” Willard stated that she hopes she is impacting students’ lives. She then explained that she recently received an email from a student who graduated and it made her heart happy. The email stated, “There’s so much I want to say, but it’s not like I can just walk into your office and talk to you like I used to. I want to reach out to you because of how much you’ve helped me. Mrs. Willard, you gave me hope when I didn’t have any you helped me through my darkest days and I am eternally grateful.”
A lot of students will not reach out to counselors for any kind of support because students do not feel they can trust the counselors or they feel they might be judged. When asked how do you get across to each student to let them know that you are there for them when they are struggling with school or other problems, Willard replied, “This is true, in every school I have been in. This is my seventh year as a school counselor. It starts with relationship building. It starts with trust. It also starts with being transparent about ethical obligations and how and when I have to report things. This is to ultimately help the student or situation but can seem unsettling at times. I also would add that everyone is different. Some students have an easier time building relationship than others.”
The Spud is grateful for having the counselors here at Alliance High School and supporting each and every student.