Remember the guidance counselor in high school who would advise on which classes to take and how to apply to college? Due to an acute need to address the emotional needs of students, that role has evolved to become “school counselor,” and address the whole student, and their social and emotional needs, along with academic and career direction.
“Yes, we’re here to help them graduate and get job training, but we first need to reach their heart before we can reach their head,” said Lorena Galaviz, director of school counseling and student support at Learn4Life. “We offer a safe environment and take the time to really get to know the students. In many cases we are the key people in their lives they can count on.”
Learn4Life, a nonprofit dropout recovery program focused on at-risk students, is successful with 90 percent of its students – reengaging them in their education, helping them graduate, and preparing them for a life beyond high school with job training and placement.
Learn4Life understands the profound need for school counselors. In its 85 schools, Learn4Life provides a counselor for every 250 students, as recommended by the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) – and far better than the 1-to-622 for California public schools or national rate of 1-to-464.
Most Learn4Life students have had difficulties in life and struggled to keep up in traditional high school. They have endured traumas such as homelessness, foster care, hunger, abuse, bullying, illness and even human trafficking. Eighty percent are low-income, many are pregnant or parenting teens, and most enroll with us after dropping out, more than a year behind in credits.
Learn4Life developed its counseling program seven years ago based on the ASCA national model. Counselors receive extra education in areas such as trauma-informed care, mental health first aid, behavior threat assessment, human trafficking, social media and how to work with foster and homeless students. “We work with community partners to provide wraparound services – everything we can do to reduce the issues that are preventing them from learning,” she added. “Students flourish with our model of personalized learning, one-on-one support and counseling,” noted Galaviz.
February 3-7 is National School Counseling Week, designed to draw attention to the unique contributions of school counselors and the urgent need to increase the number of counselors in schools across the U.S. While the student-to-counselor ratio has improved over the past few years, there is still a long way to go in most states.
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About Learn4Life: Learn4Life is a network of nonprofit public schools that provides students personalized learning, career training and life skills. Each school is locally controlled, tuition free and gives students the flexibility and one-on-one attention they need to succeed. Serving more than 49,000 students across California, we help students prepare for a future beyond high school. We are proud to be a GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency recipient for our ethical, transparent and effective organizational practices.
Ann Abajian, Learn4Life