DOWNEY -- Carrie Redfox got a call from the Downey Unified School District office. East Middle School was in a bit of a bind; they were suddenly and unexpectedly without a sixth-grade counselor.
She was asked if she could “fill in.”
“I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I can fill in,’” said Redfox.
She never left.
Redfox wasn’t always a counselor. Prior to what turned out to be a fateful call, she had spent several years as a teacher before her priorities changed.
“I taught second grade and third grade for about seven years, and during that time had two boys,” said Redfox. “It got to the point where I really wanted to make them my primary focus and I wanted to just be home doing nothing but being mom, so I took some time off.”
As her boys got older, the longtime Downey resident and Warren graduate realized she still had a desire to go back to work with kids, but not necessarily back in the classroom. She decided to pursue counseling, getting her master’s degree in counseling and PPS credential at Point Loma University’s satellite campus in Arcadia.
Now in her 11th year as a counselor at the now Doty Middle School, Redfox is constantly kept on her toes.
“The cool thing about my job is it’s never the same day twice; it’s always different,” said Redfox. “I work with sixth grade primarily, but my door is open to all students and parents, so I still have seventh and eighth graders coming to see me for different reasons, same as their parents, which I love.”
Redfox says she deals with a lot of the behind-the-scenes academic aspects of students’ school experience, including student schedules and programs. She also runs several social clubs on campus, including Kid Connect, My Place, Project Respect and the Power Up girl’s group. But there is also one other very important aspect of her job.
“A lot of my day is spent really with the social-emotional part to the student,” said Redfox. “More than academic, it’s talking to the kids about their feelings, their emotions…now, I spend most of my time dealing with kids that have social-emotional issues, or that they’re not getting along with friends, or something’s not going well at home and they need someone to talk to, so they knock on my door.”
Redfox says that those issues run the gamut.
“I find that these young children are dealing with very adult issues,” said Redfox. “You wouldn’t think that an 11-year-old would come to you and talk about things that they are, and asking for help in these areas that they should never be thinking about, talking about, being exposed to…some are dealing with difficult home life, some have a difficult time making friends, some have a difficult time in school – they don’t like it, it’s not their thing…you’d be surprised….what really do they have to be so concerned about at the age of 11?”
Redfox says she thinks a lot of what she sees is caused by excessive social media exposure.
“These kids are so immersed in the world around them in what this person has, who they should be or what they should look like…it’s a scary place and kids have a lot of freedom, and with that freedom comes danger; they can get themselves in some trouble – sending pictures they shouldn’t send, saying things they shouldn’t say, visiting sites they should never visit – it has caused, I think, big problems because when I started 11 years ago, technology wasn’t as big of a deal; we didn’t have elementary kids with phones…kids on campus always have their phones.”
Despite those difficulties, Redfox says she has the heart for her job.
“Honestly, I think God put me here and I’m not supposed to be anywhere else,” said Redfox. “I may be helping them, but honestly I’m getting more from them than they’re getting from me.
“I come home sometimes with a heavy heart based on my day because I’ve witnessed a lot, I’ve seen a lot and it just breaks me for some of the kids. But I do find some saving grace in the fact that maybe I can help a little bit just by being there, just being someone they can talk to.”