Ten years ago Vallivue High counselors spent the majority of their time with the school’s best and brightest and at-risk students. Today, their time has shifted to supporting those in the middle as well.
Plus, preparing all students for college or career readiness now trumps babysitting class schedules or behavior issues.
“We are therapist maybe 10 percent of the time,” said Connie Benke, a Vallivue High counselor. “The counselors have to guard the boundaries of our time as we’re responsible for so much more.”
The staff of five wear many hats, from helping the school’s 2,000 students with personal issues, tracking data, managing programs (dual credit and advanced placement), creating schedules, making sure students meet graduation requirements and running a career center.
“Our mission is to connect kids to their future,” said Julie Dillehay, a Vallivue High counselor. “We are bringing college to the students.”
The counselors work with a wide variety of students, from high-performing who are aimed at college, to teens in the middle who need a push towards college or a post-secondary career education program and those who are from households where no member of their family has ever graduated from high school.
“We are working to change mindsets.” Dillehay said.
Students are getting connected through programs in fields of agriculture, drafting, chemistry, nursing and cosmetology. Vallivue partners with Boise State University and the College of Western Idaho for secondary career programs.
“We are teaching students that the world isn’t waiting for you to show up,” Benke said. “The survival skills are different for these students who are graduating in today’s world.”
Rather than asking students whether they’re going to college, counselors ask students what they want to be and what they plan to do to get them there.
“When you have an economically disadvantage kid who realizes they’re taking college classes, a light goes on that is amazing,” Benke said. “We keep clearing out the obstacles.”
Vallivue High is being rewarded for its work. It joins 600 schools nationwide — and the only school in Idaho — that has received the Recognized American School Counselor Association Model Program (RAMP) designation.
The award is given to schools that make an exemplary commitment to comprehensive and data-driven school counseling.
“The process of doing RAMP makes every counseling department better,” Benke said. “It requires us to say — what are we about, how effective are we, and is it benefitting the students? We’re trying to close the education gap between the haves and the have nots.”
Benke hopes the entire Vallivue district, including the middle school and elementary school, can earn a RAMP award in the future.