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Counselors help in school life

William Powell shuffled and stacked piles of paperwork that sat on a round table inside his office.

College applications, Alabama High School Graduation Exam paperwork and even a couple of textbooks covered the wood surface. A telephone rang, and Powell rushed over to answer it.

“There it is. The Bat phone,” he said.

After the phone conversation, Powell sat back down at the table. Being a guidance counselor is a challenging, fast-paced job. But Powell, like many others, relishes the chance to have an influence on students not only in the present, but in the future as well.

“One of the main things about being a counselor is being an advocate for the students,” Powell said.

So he wades through mountains of paper and administers tests and advice to help the students at Keith High School prepare for life after during and after high school.

This week, Powell, and other counselors across the country, will be recognized for their efforts during National School Counseling Week.

Like most educators, counselors do not come to work each day to pile up accolades and recognitions. They want to develop relationships with students and lend an ear when needed.

“Whether it’s a personal problem or to help them to learn, I felt like they needed a voice,” said Katie Freine.

Freine splits time as guidance counselor at Southside Primary School and Bruce K. Craig Elementary School. For the last six years, Freine has helped students in the classroom and in her office. She works with students who are having difficulty learning in both large and small groups. Aside from mastering a skill, the students also learn how to build and maintain relationships with their classmates.

“People tend not to know what elementary counselors do,” Freine said. “We’re here to support learning, and we do that by supporting the students and the teachers, and also the parents. What you’re trying to do is make a difference. And even if it’s just a tiny difference that you can make, you’re seeing some progress.”

Sometimes, the counselors might not see the results until years later. Sheryl Schroeder puts in countless hours helping students at Morgan Academy fill out college and scholarship applications. All those transcripts, recommendation letters and essays are enough to make a head spin. But Schroeder would not trade those papers for gold.

“I absolutely love my job,” she said. “These are the best kids in the world at Morgan.”

Schroeder deals with a broad spectrum of students. Kindergarten students and high-school seniors visit her to discuss problems, whether they are academic or emotional.

“It never slows down,” she said. “I like to be of service to the students no matter if they’re in elementary or all the way to senior high.”

Powell also counsels many different-aged students. He serves grades 7-12 at Keith. Powell brings representatives from colleges, universities and community organizations to speak to the students. It is part of preventing future problems and guiding students to become productive citizens. While Powell may feel like he is constantly juggling and balancing, he would not miss a minute of it.

“There’s always things,” he said. “The students have different needs. I enjoy them all just the same.”