From cradle through college, I’ve been a public-school kid. My children attend public school. Public education has shaped me personally, and even more so, professionally.
For 13-plus years, I have served as a school counselor and college counselor in public education. I currently serve hundreds of students as the only college counselor at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (L.A.C.E.S. is within the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the country). There, I assume the role of student and professional advocate, dream-builder, and sometimes lifesaver.
Public education was designed to ensure every student in this country receives a free quality education regardless of race, socioeconomic level, and background. While opportunities are not equally distributed, school counselors work tirelessly to make sure all student populations are served.
School counselors are right behind teachers when it comes to being first responders in public schools. Among many things, we identify and support students in crisis and provide resources for as many students as possible.
Large student caseloads and lack of resources have been some of the greatest challenges for us. And now, the effects of COVID-19 are greatly impacting our work, our schools, and our students.
Public school counselors (PSC) are the unsung heroes in our profession—it’s crucial for us to authenticate our purpose. We can do this through collaboration. NACAC’s PSC Special Interest Group (SIG) brings PSCs together by including members and allies in the exchange of ideas, data, and solutions to strengthen our voice in NACAC affairs and policies—and priorities in college admission.
Together, we often have more influence than we recognize. For example, when we confront our own biases, we effect change that can transform our society, which is deeply rooted in systemic racism and structural disadvantages that have affected BIPOC students and other students of color for centuries.
As part of this effort, cultural relevance is a must! NACAC’s cultural fluency initiative includes implicit bias awareness training (at the individual, structural, and institutional levels). PSCs—and all educators—must continually evaluate ourselves if we are to do our best for our students.
Systems of oppression, inequality, and inequity are by design, therefore, these systems can be redesigned. We have the power to improve the outcomes, opportunities, and advancement for people from marginalized and oppressed communities.
Our voices must be included in critical conversations within our school districts, school boards, and at the state and national levels. Any opportunity to participate and engage in dialogue with key constituents amplifies our voices and capacity.
Our voices as PSCs may not be the loudest or always heard, but our work is impactful, substantial, and necessary. We are essential workers. We provide essential services. We offer essential resources to the students and families we serve.
PSCs are key stakeholders in NACAC and vital vessels in this profession. Although we represent the largest number of people involved in helping students through the college admission process, we have the smallest representation in NACAC.
Our priority is to increase member engagement and collaboration with PSCs and allies. We seek to strengthen our involvement, representation, and support within NACAC and the higher ed community.
“THE PSC SIG IS A PLACE WHERE COUNSELORS CAN COME TOGETHER TO DISCUSS CURRENT EVENTS, SHARE OUR CONCERNS, AND LEARN FROM OTHERS IN OUR PROFESSION. COUNSELORS IN THE PSC SIG ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR CAREERS AND HELPING STUDENTS. THE PSC SIG IS A GREAT PLACE TO MEET PASSIONATE SCHOOL COUNSELORS!”
—Angelica Delgadillo, College and Career Readiness Counselor, Valley High School (NM)
“THE PSC SIG IS A PLACE WHERE WE ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN BEYOND THE WALLS OF OUR OWN INSTITUTIONS AND LEARN FROM OTHER COUNSELORS ON BEST PRACTICES AND CURRENT ISSUES. IT IS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO TRAVEL THIS ROAD TOGETHER AND SERVE OUR STUDENTS ALONG THE WAY.”
— Erin Kim, College and Career Counselor, Granada Hills Charter High School (the largest public high school in California)
If you are a PSC, please join our NACAC SIG and our efforts to garner greater support and funding for our professional development, decreased caseloads, and advocacy for cultural competence/implicit bias training.
NACAC members and nonmembers are welcome to join the Public School Counselor SIG. Learn more about the SIG on the NACAC website and join the Exchange group.
Candice Mackey is the college counselor at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies and co-leader of NACAC’s Public School Counselor Special Interest Group.
NACAC Special Interest Groups (SIGs) nurture the growing diversity in our association by providing “micro” communities within which members can network and add value to their NACAC membership experience. These smaller subsets of members allow for knowledge-sharing and discussion among members with similar interests. It’s easy to get involved with one or more of NACAC’s Special Interest Groups. Learn more about a SIG, join the SIG’s social media groups. and contact the SIG’s leaders.