Students are the number one priority for School Counselors


Bethany Hansel

Some students may see them close to everyday, some may only exchange a couple words with them a few times a year, but no matter where a student is on the spectrum, there is no doubt that their lives are affected by the tremendous amount of work that school counselors do for them on and behind the scenes. School counselors have a myriad of responsibilities placed on their backs, ranging from AP testing arrangements, scheduling, scholarships, 504 plans, and much more, but ultimately, they do it all because they love the students and want to help them succeed as best as they possibly can.

The Roaring Gazette sat down with the School Counselor Director, Ms. Chowns, and the Academy Counselor, Mr. Carawan, for an interview discussing the responsibilities of school counselors and what their role is in regards to the student population. The passion that the two counselors filled the room with was obvious and immense, and both had a lot to say about the job that they clearly love.

Both counselors acknowledged that students sometimes have inaccurate ideas and expectations of what school counselors do. Mr. Carawan describes school counselors as often being bridges, for students can come to them with problems that might be out of their range of authority or expertise, but the counselors can still be a good starting point for students to come to, for they can help students get where they need to go. Ms. Chowns wanted to make a couple of clarifications on the school counselors’ role.

“What the student body expects of us and what we actually do could be totally different. If they’re expecting therapy from us, we’re not gonna be able to provide that….If they need someone outside of the building, we can point them in the right direction. A lot of times I might not have every answer for you, but I know who to call,” states Chowns.

Even so, school counselors always do their best to make sure that they can provide all the help they can.

“We try really hard….That might not be something that students are always aware of, but our goal really is to be there for everybody,” says Chowns.

The difficulty is that the counselors are in charge of hundreds of students, and as much as they would like to, it is difficult to give each and every one of them the same amount of time and attention that each student needs and deserves.

“I carry about 250 students on my caseload; Mr. Carawan has about 400 because he’s got the entire academy population, and the rest of the counselors have about 350, which is totally against what ASCA, our nation model, which is our framework of what we try to base our school counseling programs around, says; they say 1 to 250….” says Chowns.

“In a perfect world I would love to be able to say that every kid feels equally as helped and knows me as well….It’s almost impossible realistically to give every child the same attention with our current caseload and responsibilities,” adds Carawan.

School counseling is a constantly evolving profession, and the future holds many likely changes that will hopefully continue to improve the counseling program and make it so that they can have more time for each student and have less responsibilities dumped on them.

“…Virginia Beach City Public Schools is doing a three-year evaluation of the school counseling program and the division. Last year was our first year, we’re in the second year now, we’ll move into the third year next year, but every high school in the division is getting another school counselor next year. That’s a huge push for the profession. That’s a big deal for us,” says Chowns.

As for now, however, Ms. Chowns and Mr. Carawan made it clear that despite the plethora of responsibilities that they have, the students are always their number one priority.

“We have an open door policy, and I’ve had stuff all over my desk before and I’ll have kids come in and be like, ‘are you busy?’ and I’m like, ‘oh, honey, I’m always busy, but not too busy for you, come on!’ I tell students all the time that I would much rather talk with students than adults….I do it for the kids. We have a really cool population here. I enjoy you guys,” affirms Chowns.

The school counselors wanted students to know that they’re always available to talk, that there’s never any judgement, and that they always want to help in any way that they can, whether it be just letting a student sit and eat lunch in their room and not talk, helping a student figure out their future, or putting them in touch with a professional that can help them should they need it. They acknowledged that students go through a lot, and asserted that there is nothing that they haven’t heard or that could make them think less of a student. They are extremely understanding and empathetic and don’t ever want students to be afraid to talk to them about whatever it is they may be going through.

“You guys come to school with a lot, more than you need to. I have this conversation a lot with one of our administrators, and their response is, ‘it’s amazing that they come in the building, and that they’re functioning….’ It’s like, you’re seventeen, you shouldn’t be worried about that at all. But that’s how things are, and if school can be a safe place for you, and your school counselor is your person in the building, then good. We want everyone to have a person. It may not always be the school counselor, it might be a teacher, and that’s okay too, that’s why we have advisory and LEO, that’s why there’s a big push division-wide for LEO, so that you guys feel supported in these four walls….You should have at least one person in this building that you can talk to,” asserts Chowns.

If any student ever feels that they don’t have a person within the school that they feel they can talk to, one of the school counselors might be a good place to start, for they genuinely care and want nothing more than to be there and help each and every student whenever they possibly can.