By Hailey Boehme
The counselors at Sheyenne High School are always around to help. However, it is very normal to have questions about the process of creating a meeting time, talking through conflict, and working through the stigma that is often felt with mental illness. A few counselors including Mitchell Grunig, Jessica Raile, and Krystal Haugen answered some commonly asked questions in hopes to aid those who are on the fence about meeting.
What are your roles as a counselor?
Grunig: My role as a school counselor is to support all students with academic and emotional challenges. Often we are meeting with a student individually to explore what challenges they are struggling with. Students come to see us for questions about their schedule, concerns about self, friends, family, or to talk about life. We also help support staff making sure they have the skills and knowledge to meet students' needs in the classroom.
Haugen: School counselors at the high school level get to help with everything! Personal, academic, career, etc. We are trained counselors in a school setting. We work with students individually and in the classroom when we can.
Raile: We specialize in personal/social/emotional health, academic, and career support for our students. We track credits and graduation progress for all of “our kids” (we split by last name alphabets, except all AVID kids are with me regardless of their last name). We can offer support for personal/social challenges students might be facing. We can help students communicate with their adults and teachers if they need help with that. We do some career stuff, but Mrs. Aipperspach is the PRO for that, so often we bring her in to work with students that are looking for career info.
What is the best way for students to go about scheduling a meeting time?
Grunig: Two options. Stop and down and talk to Mrs. Fercho or Mrs. Steffen about getting on our schedule or send us a message. The most important thing is to get on our schedule as we can get busy as the day goes along.
Raile: I am currently working from home, but am constantly still meeting with students on TEAMS. The easiest way to get on your counselors’ calendar for an appointment and have our awesome admin assistants schedule it for you. You can also send a Schoology message to your counselor to get something set up, but sometimes the back and forth of messaging can be hard to get a date actually set and confirmed!
Haugen: The easiest way is to swing into the counseling office and schedule with our awesome administrative assistants, Mrs. Fercho and Mrs. Steffen. If that won’t work, you can always send your counselor a direct Schoology message to schedule.
What is one thing you wish new students knew about the counselors at Sheyenne?
Grunig: You can come to see us for anything. We can get students most anything they need from food to school supplies. If we do not have an answer for you, we will find one.
Haugen: We can help with almost anything. If we can’t help, we usually know someone who can! We enjoy working with students and because we do so much more than just emotional counseling, there is no stigma when coming into our office to schedule. Visiting your counselor here is a pretty normal thing to do at Sheyenne.
Raile: I think new to Sheyenne students should know that our counseling office and counseling department staff are very easy to work with and it isn’t a “weird thing” to be seen in the counseling office to or have your counselor check in with you. I think maybe in other places students see the counseling office as intimidating or embarrassing and it really isn’t like that at Sheyenne. We see students ALL DAY LONG for so many reasons- from questions about college and future classes, to questions about how to study for the ACT, to personal issues like anxiety or depression and ways to cope with it, to students looking for ways to improve their grades, and everything in between.
What is a normal day like for you?
Grunig: Each day is a unique day. Counselors do not have a structured schedule like teachers. Most days start with responding to any emails that I received overnight. I also meet with students individually throughout the day. When I have downtime, I respond to messages from staff, students and parents. I also attend meetings with counselors and principals to help plan events like testing, class registration, and graduation.
Raile: With working remotely this year, my day is definitely different than typical years, but I stay busy. I am pretty much on my computer or iPad all day long either meeting with kids and teachers virtually or sending emails/checking grades. I miss the casual conversations and joking with students, but I am really happy with how many of my A-C and AVID kiddos are totally cool with connecting with me via Teams instead of in person.
What does a meeting with a school counselor usually look like?
Raile: As students get to know me they see I am pretty informal and easy to talk to. I try to be approachable and listen to what the student needs to tell me. Sometimes students are nervous talking to me at first, but usually after 1 meeting they are more comfortable and continue to meet with me as they need to. We talk about as much as the student needs/wants to talk about. Sometimes students get emotional, and that is totally ok. I am glad to be someone students can let their guard down with and know they will be safe and not judged. What we talk about in our meetings stays confidential unless a student gives permission to share (maybe there was a death in a family and students are ok with the teachers knowing why they have been down, etc.) OR I believe the student is at risk for harm or in danger to themselves or someone else. People who work in schools are “Mandated Reporters” which means it is the law for me to get additional help involved if I worry about a student’s safety.
Haugen: I think our goal is always to make a student feel comfortable and supported when they are here. That can look different for every student. Our goal is always to listen and help students find solutions or ideas to solve problems and plan for the future.
What is your best advice for a student who is hesitant on reaching out for help?
Raile: I think the best advice if a student is maybe a little nervous would be to send your counselor a quick Schoology message and ask if you could talk with them sometime. They can help you set up your first appointment if the idea of walking into our office and asking for one out loud seems too intimidating at first. My favorite part of my job is working with students directly and getting to know them!
Grunig: It is always challenging to ask for help but the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. Asking for help shows strength and self-awareness. Skills that you need to continue to build every day. We are here for you!
Haugen: We have 5 counselors at Sheyenne, so get to know yours early and you won’t be afraid to ask for help! We adhere to confidentiality as well so what you say with us, stays with us (as long as everyone is safe-we are also mandated reporters and safety trumps confidentiality).
The Mustang Post
All feature news content is produced by students in the Newspaper program at West Fargo Sheyenne High School.