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Virtual counseling office offers ‘one-stop’ services

Wyoming — The pandemic has added new sources of anxiety to the lives of some middle-schoolers, compounding typical school stressors of grades, homework and friends.

“The No. 1 issue is still stress and anxiety,” said Wyoming Junior High social worker Chelsey Diaz. “The sources may be a little different now. Many students have parents and family members who have gotten COVID or passed away from it.”

Knowing how overwhelmed some students are feeling, the school counseling team wanted to be proactive in offering new ways for students to connect with them on anything from academic questions to mental health issues they are experiencing. Diaz, fellow social worker Michelle Potter and school counselor Jeanne Kimball launched the Wyoming Junior High virtual counseling office, an all-encompassing site for students and parents to quickly access information.

Social worker Chelsea Diaz

 “It’s a very user-friendly interface,” Diaz said. “It’s like a one-stop shop for most anything that parents and students would be looking for and need.”

Students can contact the staff members from their devices, which appeals to many of them, Diaz said. “Many kids now are much more comfortable, instead of walking into (a counseling) office, with sending an email or text.” Information is available in English and Spanish. 

Staying Connected at Home

The virtual option also meets the needs of students who learn from home. All have spent several weeks in remote learning since the district closed in-person instruction in November due to spiking coronavirus cases. Many students had already opted to remain at home, attending the district’s virtual program, instead of returning to school last August

“Right now, 2020 and now the beginning of 2021 has been one of the most connected but also disconnected years,” Diaz said.

Added Potter: “Remaining connected is key to mental health and wellness. The pandemic and the resulting consequences have made social connections and communication very difficult for many students and their families. I think that it is more important than ever for us to do whatever we can to make ourselves and information about resources available and easily accessible to our students and their families.” 

Students have started using the site for various reasons. They access schedules, ask quick questions, connect with resources such as KDL Virtual and 211 Virtual or follow links to contact Diaz, Potter and Kimball directly. Parent resources include district learning platforms, access to their child’s grades, free internet resources and tips for distance learning. Students have also asked questions to help them with career exploration. 

Ninth-grader Kaylee Guarcas-Mendoza said the site offers a clear guide to information about academics and other needs for herself and her peers.

“It lets students choose who they feel more comfortable talking to,” she said. “The request form is very easy and not too complicated to fill out as well. I especially like the ‘Coping with Stress’ tab. It has very helpful videos that we can access anytime.”

The Wyoming Junior High virtual counseling office includes introductions to counseling staff members
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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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