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School counselors focus on students' needs

Jodi Raser and Dorothy Eskeli, New York Mills Public School District counselors, are recognized during National School Counselors Week for their work with students.

From conflict mediation on the playground to career guidance for high school seniors, the New York Mills school counselors provide an invaluable service to the district in handling a wide range of student issues.

This being National School Counselors Week, the theme is "School Counselors: Making a Difference." NY Mills school counselors Dorothy Eskeli and Jodi Raser, along with counselors around the country, are being recognized this week for the work they do.

Dorothy Eskeli is in her 16th year as elementary school counselor in NY Mills. She's passionate about helping students and has implemented a number of programs and tools to help students work through issues.

Eskeli works two-fifths as counselor and three-fifths in special education. Although, she says technically not all of her time is dedicated to counseling, the two areas are related when she works with emotionally disturbed children.

Each day brings something new in the life of an elementary school counselor. Eskeli trains 5th-graders to resolve problems as Conflict Mediators in 6th grade. She established a Family Change Group to work with kids from divorced or separated families. Eskeli implemented Stop Hitting Day in order to teach students different ways to manage anger, and to find things to do other than hitting during altercations. And there's Project Charlie, which was originally started in the 1970s as a national drug and alcohol program. Eskeli now uses that model to bring Charlie the Puppet into classrooms to talk to students about drugs and alcohol prevention, promoting peace, and working on character building.

"I like the variety of my job," Eskeli says. "I work in the classrooms. I work with individual kids, and groups of kids. I'll have meetings with teachers. I'll have meetings with parents. It's a real variety and no day is the same."

Eskeli started her education career by teaching the first seven years, before she realized she didn't always have time to do it all, as far as teaching academics in the classroom and helping students with personal situations. It's then she realized she wanted to be a counselor in order to focus on the kids.

"Even though there are some difficult things to deal with, there is the satisfaction and good feeling about being there to help these kids," she says. "What I really enjoy is seeing kids use the skills they've learned to help other kids."

For high school counselor Jodi Raser, the bulk of her counseling duties deal with academics. Raser works with students on meeting high school graduation requirements in order to keep them on the right academic track to graduation. She provides information on colleges, scholarships, and financial aid, to help juniors and seniors prepare for life after high school.

Raser handles new students and transfers to track graduation requirements and she handles class scheduling for grades 7-12 students. She also organizes the state mandated tests high school students have to take each year. She is the College in the High School Coordinator, and NHS advisor.

One area of academic guidance she enjoys and is unique to New York Mills is where she meets in the summer with every student and parents going into their senior year. Raser says they look at a credit check to determine what classes the student needs to take to fulfill graduation requirements. They also talk about ACT scores, college, and career interests.

"My favorite part of this job is I get very excited about working with seniors in planning their life after high school," she says. "Every senior has a different plan."

Aside from the academic counseling, Raser says she does handle other student issues relating to things going on at home, personal problems, or peer conflicts. She handles that one-on-one counseling more as needed in the school, or may refer students with more serious problems to the appropriate agencies. Student Counseling Center Services include: crisis counseling, peer mediation, new student tours and groups, senior scholarship resume building, and scheduling for courses.

What do school counselors do?

- Provide direct counseling services to students individually and in small groups

- Provide education and support services to parents

- Provide consultation services to teachers

- Facilitate referrals to community support services

- Advise students on academic planning and career guidance

- Network with post-secondary schools

- Maintain up-to-date resources on careers and post-secondary schools