By Laura Boismenue, School Counselor
School Counseling at Eastside Prep means more than stopping into an office to unload one’s burdens. To be sure, that is certainly one way that students feel supported on any given school day (there is no shortage of comfortable seating and tissues in the counseling offices!). But more, as advisors, athletic coaches, club sponsors, EBC trip leaders, and Seminar instructors, Eastside Prep’s four School Counselors are active members of the school community who support and build deep and meaningful relationships with students throughout their Middle and Upper School years.
This year, as we continue to reconnect as a community on campus, the focus on student wellness is paramount, and the School Counselors are leading the effort to ensure that every student is seen and supported. Under the Counselors’ guidance, the Peer Mentors—Upper School students who serve as mentors and pals to Middle School students in Advisory—continue to develop impactful peer-to-peer connections between older and younger students. Every few weeks, the Mentors join their assigned Middle School Advisory group to play games, build connections, and encourage students. Mentoring provides an opportunity for younger students to be seen and known by their older peers, and it offers the opportunity for our older students to practice valuable leadership skills and to serve the EPS community.
Facilitated by Counselors, students of all grades benefit from the Social-Emotional Learning content that is part of Advisory, Class Meetings, and occasionally included in academic classes. Recently, much of the content has been tailored to address students’ needs amidst the ongoing pandemic. This fall, sixth graders explored how to navigate peer relationships and interactions with respect to individual needs and preferences in the age of COVID. Students of all grades revisit familiar themes of stress management and self-care as they face challenges, new and old. In our Wellness class, ninth graders explore topics of teen mental health, gender identity, and how to support a friend through tough times. These in-depth lessons provide a solid foundation for our students’ Upper School experience and prepare them for life after EPS as well.
ADDITIONALLY, THIS FALL DURING FINALS WEEK THE COUNSELORS TOOK THE LEAD ON TRANSFORMING A CLASSROOM IN THE LPC INTO A WELL-BEING SPACE, WHICH SERVED AS A WELCOME—AND COZY—RESPITE DURING AN OTHERWISE BUSY WEEK OF FINAL EXAMS, PROJECTS, AND PRESENTATIONS.
Meanwhile, the eighth graders are examining how one’s own values intersect and diverge from peer’s and how that self-knowledge can equip them to effectively and compassionately navigate conflicts. Counselors regularly partner with classroom teachers to discuss topics that relate to mental health or well-being as they arise in academic content. For example, Counselors join in literature classes when texts touch on difficult topics, and help guide conversations and provide tools for students to process and grow.
Additionally, during the fall and winter trimester finals weeks, the Counselors took the lead on transforming a classroom in the LPC into a well-being space, which served as a welcome—and cozy—respite during an otherwise busy week of final exams, projects, and presentations. There students found comfortable pillows, encouraging words, puzzles, coloring pages, and more. The space was designed to serve as a retreat where students could take an intentional break from their academic work and focus on their own well-being. The wellness space was so well received by students that we hope to make it an ongoing tradition.
In these ways, the School Counselors serve as cheerleaders, advocates, guides, and teachers in the Eastside Prep community as they support wellness, balance, and connection across the entire school. Their goal is not only to support students on tough days, but to bolster their dynamic growth: expanding their tool kit for tending to one’s own mental and relational well-being. Eastside Prep’s four School Counselors are the kind of people who make students feel welcome to stop in for a chat for any reason at all. And, just like all faculty and staff, they are invested in so many facets of the school community, eager to get to know and encourage students in myriad ways throughout their years at Eastside Prep.