Downey counselors reach out to freshmen early on

In an attempt to connect with the students more efficiently, the counselors at Downey have developed a new program to inform students early on while they are freshman about resources available for advice.This past October, counselors Terri Curiel, Adair Lima, and Joanne Loyarte came up with a four-year plan to help this year's freshmen familiarize with their counselors. The counselors reached out to the students by visiting and talking to health classes, which are mostly composed of freshmen. There, they informed the students that counselors are available at any time for guidance with bullying, time management and study skills, and graduating. "As a department, we were having the same conferences over and over again," said Loyarte. "We needed to reach them more efficiently because some of the information was lacking among the freshmen." When they first visited the health classes, the counselors gave students a diagnostic test to figure out what they did and did not know. Their scores improved dramatically after the meetings and more students began recognizing their counselors. "They remembered our faces and now know how many credits it takes to graduate and are coming up [to our offices]," said Lima. "Before, they didn't know the right people to approach for help on campus." With the increase in students visiting their offices, the counselors are also now able to keep track of the amount of times and the reasons students visit with a computer system called Zangle. "Our new computer system Zangle provides us data and let's us see how many freshman we see and how often from here on onward," said Curiel. As part of their long time goals, the counselors hope not only reach out to freshmen-but also other grade levels-and attain state recognition. "We're trying to come up with lessons that are appropriate for each grade level," said Curiel. "We're looking at helping older grade levels with stuff like college preparation." "Long term as a department, we want to attain some sort of recognition with RAMP (Recognized ASCA Model Program) through the ASCA (American School Counseling Association)," said Loyarte. So far, the RAMP certification through ASCA has only been given to only one school in California, but the counselors are intent on getting it. "These are long term goals," said Lima. "This way of thinking turned upside down our normal way of thinking." With their innovative program, the counselors just want to reassure the students at Downey High School can ask for any type help from their counselors just about any day of the week. "We have an open-door policy where students can come in any time," said Curiel. "We work really well in our department."

********** Published: December 18, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 35

Julie Ledesma