AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Most of us remember spending time in the high school counselor’s office scheduling classes and making sure we were on track to graduate.
A school counselor’s job is a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
An Austintown Elementary school counselor is being recognized for all she does for students.
Kelley Mills was just named Elementary Counselor of the Year and Ohio School Counselor of the Year.
She works with the smallest learners; kindergarten students and some first graders.
“I like to tell the kids at school that we’re their grown-up friends and that they can come to us with anything,” Mills said.
Austintown School District says there isn’t a state mandate to have school counselors, but the district sees the value in having them on staff.
Principal Tom Lenton says counselors are critical, especially at the elementary age.
“Boys and girls come here at great risk both socially, emotionally and also academically, and counselors are a bridge between the home and the school,” he said.
“This is where all the intervention and prevention really start,” Mills said.
A lot of what she does is about helping families, working with community agencies and talking with kids about social and emotional issues.
“We have so many boys and girls here and so many families that are in crisis because of single parent homes, because of divorces, because of custodial trauma that they’re in,” Lenton said.
“For some of them we might be their only advocate,” Mills said. “There are some situations that happen at home that are pretty scary for a little one and how they perceive those situations are different than adults. They may not know the situation they’re in is not safe.”
She says the awards and recognition are humbling, but the greatest satisfaction are the hugs, smiles and notes from kids.