In any given week, you will find AMSA students learning how to manage their time, or improve social skills, or advocate for themselves. They might plan acts of kindness, learn how to discuss complicated issues, attend a seminar on applying to colleges, or have a conversation about grade anxiety.
What these experiences have in common is that they all are facilitated by AMSA’s School Counseling Department, which aspires to support every student's personal, social and academic growth.
Clearly, this is not your traditional guidance office.
“The model is very different than even 20 years ago,” says Kate Driver, Director of School Counseling. “Our focus is on the wellness and mental health of the whole child. We work with students in a wide variety of situations on a wide variety issues, as well as with students just looking to learn and grow. We try to help them think about what they want, what they want to do with their life.”
Unlike years ago, when guidance staff mainly helped kids change classes and fill out college apps, AMSA school counselors are much more proactive, offering a range of programs and direct support tailored to the needs of AMSA students.
“What sets us apart is that we adapt what we offer to what we see our students need, what the reality is. It is not a cookie cutter approach,” says Ms. Driver. “And we have dynamic counselors who always strive to serve students and excel at what they do.”
In the Lower School, school counselors focus mainly on social issues, character development, and building behaviors needed for academic success.
In the Upper School, school counselors spend more time advising students on academic issues, course selection, college planning, and gaining study and life skills that will set them up for future success in college and beyond.
At both levels, school counselors work to support students struggling with stress and mental health issues.
The Counseling Dept. has added new programs in the last few years to stay ahead of the challenges and issues that students face in today’s world:
- Monthly themes in Lower School – Counselors oversee the Advisory program, which offers lessons about acceptance, kindness, perseverance, etc. Student work related to the themes is displayed on the LS bulletin board.
- New Junior Seminar – Similar to Senior Seminar in which counselors meet with the entire class and focus on college planning and other academic issues relevant for juniors.
- “Take What You Need” campaign – Counselors hang short notes of encouragement and positive affirmations around school for students to take as needed. Based on how often they have to add more notes, they are very popular.
- Signs of Suicide – Program that informs students about potential signs of depression and suicide.
Through its programs and daily one-on-one student support, School Counseling plays a key role in AMSA achieving its mission. By addressing the differing needs of students, counselors help “children of all backgrounds and abilities excel.” And enabling students to achieve academically and become well-adjusted young adults certainly “empower(s) them to succeed in the workplace in our modern high-tech world.”
“We are a resource for students, whether they are doing well or struggling. We help connect kids to teachers, parents to teachers, facilitate conversations, and find the resources they need. They can come talk to us about anything. We are here for every student,” says Ms. Driver.
Learn more about AMSA’s School Counseling Department and staff here.