The stress of high school can oftentimes feel overwhelming. Many students struggle with overwhelming workloads, time-consuming extracurriculars and pressures resulting from an active social life. We as the Editorial Board believe it is important that students feel they have a trusted support system they can rely on.
While the school provides students with a shared guidance counselor, there are almost 500 students in the High School. Although we recognize that many other high schools in the U.S. have a greater number of students to counselor ratio, it is unrealistic and unfair to both the students and the guidance counselor to have only one person caring for over 500 students.
Students should be able to establish a relationship with the guidance counselor, but the overwhelming ratio of students to the counselor prohibits the formation of a meaningful one . Similarly, we believe that it is unwise to assume that all students are willing to see a counselor whom they do not know very well, resulting in students not reaching out to the counselor when an issue arises.
Although the advisory program was supposed to act as a solution to this, it is evident from student feedback that this is not the case. Students only meet with their advisor twice a week, and as a result, meetings to discuss heavier topics such as stress and anxiety are frequently rushed. Additionally, advisors are also teachers and have to account for and prioritize their classes, which does not always leave them with the time to build strong relationships with individual students in their advisory. Moreover, with the continual changes in advisors and the advisory program, some students have had a different advisor every year, defeating the purpose of creating long-lasting connections over two years.
Therefore, we believe that, should resources and budget permit, the school should attempt to hire a second guidance counselor. Although we acknowledge that hiring a new member of staff is expensive, we view this as a beneficial use of resources as it drastically lowers the student to guidance counselor ratio in the High School. Having two guidance counselors would not only provide optionality to students and reduce the pressure on the sole guidance counselor, but also cultivate more individualistic relationships between students and counselors.
Furthermore, the guidance counselor needs to be more visible within the school. This Editorial Board believes the guidance counselor should attend and lead assemblies and classes throughout the year to describe their role and encourage students to reach out to them. These meetings would allow students to know when to approach the guidance counselor or talk to them about another friend. Additionally, making the counselor’s role more public would be beneficial to new students as they would be made aware of ASL’s support system from the get-go. A guidance counselor is such an important resource in the High School, and it is crucial for students to not only be aware of it, but to utilize it when necessary.
Another solution to the lack of visible guidance support would be to further integrate the peer leadership program into the High School. Younger members of the community can better connect with other students who have experienced similar academic and social pressures of high school already. As of now, peer leaders attend a Grade 9 advisory each week, but there seems to be a deficit for the rest of the community. This program ought to be expanded in order to provide another opportunity for students to communicate their issues. With the proper training, peer counselors would be able to efficiently pass on information to the guidance counselor.
With extra support from the school in the form of another guidance counselor, further visibility of the counselor, and more effective integration of the peer leadership program, a safer environment can be created.