National School Counseling Week: Staff Spotlight

For National School Counseling Appreciation week, we interviewed two counselors of the many in Metro Schools. All week we have seen schools showing appreciation of their awesome counselors and heard the amazing things they do for their students. Here are just two of the staff stories.

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 Meet Desiree Alford

We asked Desiree Alford, a 15-year veteran school counselor at McMurray Middle School, about her career and her motivation for her work. Alford didn’t dream of being a school counselor. In fact, she was medical-school-bound until she realized the sight of blood made her nauseous. She shifted course after taking psychology and child development classes in college. After reflecting on the impact of the teachers in her life, as well as her mom and aunt who were also educators, she knew she wanted to work in a school to help students the same way they helped her.

Q: What is the most uplifting part of your job?

A: One of my favorite things about being a school counselor at McMurray for the past 15 years is that I have worked with many families and have had the opportunity to help their children, the siblings, and even other relatives throughout the years. You come to know the families very well!  Many of these families, I have served over a decade while each of their children go from middle school to college and into adulthood. One of the most uplifting parts of my job is seeing the students grow, knowing that in a small way I was able to be a part of their journey.

Q: What do you want your students to know?

A: I want my students to know they can do anything if they work hard for it.  My mother used to tell me: “all you have to do, little girl, is do…so do!”. This has always resonated with me and been a driving force in my life. I hope I can empower my students to believe they can accomplish their dreams.

Q: How do you believe you’re making an impact in students’ lives?

A: I believe I am influencing students’ lives by being a school counselor who is there for them to help them grow. Some days, it is for a social-emotional issue or a friendship concern.  Some days, it is just to be a safe person to talk to about their feelings. Other days, to help them to explore their future. I hope I am impacting the students’ lives in all [of] these ways, to help them move from the young students they are today to the young adults they will be in the future, [because] what they are doing today is preparing them for their tomorrow.

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Meet Alex Castro

Alex Castro, M.Ed. Haywood Elementary School’s school counselor, was almost through with his master’s program for clinical psychology when a chance encounter with clients changed the direction of his life. Through those experiences, he recognized school counseling, especially in the early childhood years, as an opportunity to effect change much earlier in their lives.

“Becoming an elementary school counselor has turned out to be the best decision that I could have made,” Castro said.

Q: What is the most uplifting part of your job?

A: Being able to see real growth in students, even if it is the tiniest bit of growth. You can see pure joy on their faces when you notice and acknowledge their growth. A favorite pastime of mine is to walk around campus greeting students and seeing their smiling faces just because you’ve said hello.

Q: What did your own school counselor teach you?

A: My high school counselor taught me that I can do it. I was the first person in my family to go to college and remain the only one to have completed it. She showed me that my circumstance doesn’t need to dictate my future.

Q: What do you want your students to know?

A: I want my students to know that I see them. Sometimes we go through our days and don’t really feel seen. I want every student that I walk by to know that I see them and I’m genuinely excited to be there with them.

Q: How do you believe you’re making an impact in students’ lives?

A: I believe that I’m making an impact in their lives through the many ways that we as a school are trying to reach them where they are. This can be through class lessons, one-on-one meetings or through group work. I try to make sure that they know that the counselor is available to them and present.