Counseling and College Readiness: Inside look on McNicholas High School’s school counselors

By Abbey Pour

Seeing school counselors may seem like a daunting task, but McNicholas’ counselors, Kaitlyn Richter, Alaina Way, and Matt Wehrman make it easy. Richter, Way and Wehrman help students beyond their academic needs, and are at McNick not only to give advice, but to lend an ear to students in need.

In previous years, if a student wanted to visit their school counselors, they would refer to the office as the Guidance office. This year, Guidance changed their department name to Counselling and College Readiness. “There’s a push to have school counselors be more involved in the school… We were also trained to be leaders in the school, to provide school wide and classroom wide programs to help students grow,” Way said.

It may seem difficult or confusing when trying to get in touch with one’s guidance counsellor, but Richter explained how to see a counsellor in simple steps. “One [step] could be they just walk in,” Richter said. Students can visit their counselors between classes or during lunch. “Sometimes we’ll get emails from students during the day that they would like a pass sent for them.”

Another option is to go into their office and pick up a green pass. “We have two passes,” Wehrman said. “Say someone walks into our office and we are not available at the time. They fill [the green pass] out with who their counsellor is, what the situation is whether it be academic or personal. They will write down what time it is, their name, all that information, and then that is given to us, and then we write out a yellow slip.” The yellow pass is sent by the school counselors to be handed out in class with the student’s name and the time in which they can go see their counsellor.

If a student were in immediate need to see their counsellor, they would stop in to the office and tell Jennifer Tumser, or whoever is at the front desk that it is an emergency. “If no one is at the front desk, they should come directly back into their counsellor’s office.” Richter said. “An emergency is stay in our office and we will see you ASAP.” Way added, “We are here to help students through their high school career and beyond, both personally and academically. If there is anything on their mind that students want to talk through, if they are having trouble with anything, we are here to listen.”

One feature of the counselors’ office is their Chill Room. The counselors stress that it is not a sleep room. “The purpose last year we created it was sometimes you need 10 to 15 minutes to breathe and you don’t necessarily want to talk to somebody,” Richter said.  “So if you’re stressed out in class or are having a moment and you don’t necessarily want to talk to one of [the counselors] you could go in.” Students wanting to use this room would have to alert Jennifer Tumser at the front desk and she will let the counselors know so that they can check up on the students after 10-15 minutes.

A matter that McNicholas’ counselors find important is anonymity. “We do everything we can to keep confidentiality,” Wehrman said. Students are invited to come to the office with any concerns that they have for a friend.

Students are invited to talk to a counsellor other than their own appointed one in the case of an emergency. There are also instances where a student may want to talk to a counsellor of their own gender for certain issues, such as a big breakup, and they may.

McNicholas counselors are involved in more than just counselling. Matt Wehrman coaches women’s softball, puts together McNicholas’ intramural teams, and is starting up a podcast. Kaitlyn Richter orchestrates peer mentoring between the senior and freshman classes, and is active with Kairos and Appalachia, and Alaina Way speaks for the Career and College Readiness Department in meetings and on several committees. She also put together a self-defense class in the 2016-2017 school year.

Richter, Way and Wehrman all agree that the students are what keep them here at McNick. “I don’t necessarily know that our students know how awesome they are,” Richter said.

Counsellor pics
Students fill out blue slips in order to request a pass to see their counselor. Students receive yellow passes from their individual counselors when they can be seen.

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