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Feb. 2019  
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Ashley Seeklander Ashley Seeklander, Groton Area, represents SD at School Counselor of the Year event

Ashley Seeklander, K-8 school counselor in the Groton Area School District, represented South Dakota at the School Counselor of the Year awards and gala event in Washington, D.C., this month. Hosted by the American School Counselor Association, the event recognized state school counselor of the year recipients as well as the 2019 School Counselor of the Year, Brian Coleman of Chicago.

Seeklander shared the following about her participation in the celebratory events:

“The School Counselor of the Year awards and gala was an amazing opportunity and one that has left me empowered, enlightened, and rejuvenated. Whether you are the only school counselor in your district or one of 40 school counselors, it can feel like you are an island. However, if you look on a map of the world, islands have names; identities. So this leads me to ask the following question: who are you?

When we begin the process of advocating for school counselors, we need to identify who we are and our purpose. ASCA has helped to define that role as being the one who works with all students. We do not work only with the top three or top 10 students; likewise, we do not work only with the students who spend more time in the principal’s office than the principal. We work on academic, career, and social-emotional learning with all of our students.

We do not just do career exploration and just hope the rest falls in to place. Too often when we lose our identity and our purpose we become trapped in the same routine, just a different year. We become unresponsive to our students’, school’s, and community’s needs. Unfortunately, we then become misidentified as just the one who does testing and scheduling.

At the SCOY event we heard from Dr. Jill Biden, on the importance and role of a school counselor. She shared her story about how her school counselor told her she should reconsider her future plans because she would not make it in college. Dr. Biden also talked about how Michelle Obama had a similar experience, when Obama’s school counselor told her she “wasn’t Princeton material.” These two stories are just one of too many stories that I have heard over the years from adults (and students) who had an adverse experience with a school counselor.

In my mind it begged the question, who do you think you are? Who do we think we are, trampling on the dreams of our students? Please understand that I do not believe every student should go to a four-year postsecondary school. Some of our students are better geared for a two-year postsecondary school, the military, or going straight into the workforce. In this day and age, a four-year, two-year, military, or workforce choice is not a ranking from best to worst. These are the options that we have to offer our future. Our job as school counselors is to give students the tools and encouragement to EXPLORE all their options and help them look at how those options match with their growing skills and abilities. It is not our job to be the one to say, “No, you don’t belong here or there.” Be the one who empowers our students to define who they are and who they want to become. Be the school counselor you needed when you were younger.

Thank you for allowing me to represent South Dakota’s school counselors. It has truly been my honor and privilege to say that I come from such a fabulous state.”


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