LIHUE — Counseling students is often a thankless job.
Being there for kids as they transition into young adulthood is a challenge for Marcia Montayre and Clarisse Kauwe, counselors at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, as every day is different.
“You hear the worst of the worst stories and you feel bad for the kids,” Kauwe told The Garden Island. “Here in middle school, you try to get them connected with the right people and resources in such a short period of time. Your heart goes out to them.”
This week is National School Counseling Week, which recognizes the accomplishments and efforts of Hawaii’s school counselors for the hard work they put in on a daily basis.
“It’s overlooked much of the time, or we’re sorta lumped in with teachers. But it’s nice to have separate recognition because our jobs are so different from teachers,” said Charles Fulks, a counselor at Kauai High School.
Becoming an avenue of support is crucial to the growth of a student, said Montayre. Going through physiological changes can take a toll on children as they develop.
“At this age, it’s important for them to have an adult to talk to. A lot of them will turn to their friends, but I think they do need to have counselors — especially at a time when they’re going through so many changes in their life,” Montayre said.
Montayre and Kauwe both agree that becoming positive role models is one of the most important things any school counselor can do, especially at the middle school level. It can be difficult for Montayre and Kauwe to see a young student struggle and then advance to high school, where they can’t help them anymore.
Fulks tries to make that transition as stress-free as possible.
“We start with our students at ninth-grade and follow them along until they graduate,” Fulks told TGI. “You really get a chance to know them well and form that type of relationship with them so that you can be there for them for any sort of issue or problem that comes up.”
Silvia Koch, president of the Hawaii Counselors Association, sees school counselors as much more than someone who can help with college applications or resolve disputes. They are life-altering influences.
“Much of what we do is plant seeds,” Koch said. “Counseling is actually quality interaction over time. School counselors are agents of change. You can have the most rigorous curriculum, but if you don’t have support for students, you will not achieve academic success.”