To School Counselors

To School Counselors

This article was published today in the Daily News & Journal. It is an open letter to my daughter-in-law and all school counselors on the last day of National School Counseling Week.


February 3-7, 2014 is National School Counseling Week. More than 32,000 school counselors nationwide will be participating in the week’s festivities. Many school counselors will be hosting special events and activities to call attention to the myriad benefits of a comprehensive school counseling program.

“School counselors work with all students to remove barriers to learning by addressing students’ academic concerns, career awareness in post-secondary options and personal/social skills,” said Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., ASCA executive director. “Comprehensive school counseling programs help to increase student achievement and provide a much-needed resource for students, parents, teachers and administrators. School counselors are integral to student success.”

The face of school counselors is especially familiar to me because my daughter-in-law and running buddy is the epitome of dedication and excellence when I imagine school counselors. She recently left a well-funded, high profile magnate school to lead a school for at risk kids in our community with high drop-out rates and little resources because she felt that was her calling. And she is in her element. As I have watched her work I feel compelled to write this letter to her and all school counselors in Rutherford County today.


Dear Jennifer,

Your week of “honor” has come to an end. This past week was National School Counseling Week. I hope you received some recognition and appreciation for all that you do but knowing how busy and distracted school life is I doubt it. So I thought I would take a minute on the last day of your week to remind you that you are a hero to me, to our community, but more importantly to the kids that you contact every day.

I have no idea how you do what you do with the little bit of financial support that you have at your disposal. I do know the dozens of stories that you whisper to my son of lunches you have bought for kids who could not afford theirs that day, of donuts you brought in to a class as a reward for a particularly good effort on a quiz, and of clothes you have given to the teen girls you care about who had outgrown their own because of an unexpected pregnancy. How do you do it?

You schedule dozens and dozens of classes for your students, and then I imagine change and rechange because that’s what teenagers do. You administer the ever increasing cadre of test that have unclear acronyms for names and even less clear purpose; ACT, PLAN, Writing Assessment, (I could use that one.), Benchmark, MIST, end of course exams and more. You are the voice of reason and the safe place for kids when there are conflicts and disagreements between students and faculty members. You are the expert on the plethora of paperwork for college applications, ACT registration, FASFA forms, and scholarship applications.

Jennifer I have watched you be the cheer leader for that one kid that nobody else took an interest in. I have seen you put the “fear of God” in a football player with one stern word and then follow it with a smile and a joke. I have sat quietly in the corner of your office when a line of kids came through just to say good morning because they were so hungry for some affirming contact. And, as a family counselor myself, I have watched with pride through your door as you handled some of the most fearful and traumatic situations for a high school kid with calm, grace, and wisdom.

You, my daughter-in-law and running buddy, you are a hero. You change lives every day. You love where most of us don’t and affect what most of us can’t. This one week is not enough. This one letter is not enough. But know anyway, in your city, in your school, in your family and in my heart, you are loved for all you do and for who you are.



Jennifer Courtney is a Rutherford County native and the Guidance Counselor at Holloway School in Murfreesboro.

Poppy C is Dr. Mike Courtney, the founder and director of Branches Counseling Center in Murfreesboro.

Jennifer and Mike completed their 2nd Music City Marathon together last spring.



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