Expanding the Network: Louisiana Public School Counselor Outreach Initiative: Feedback from The LCA Annual Conference

Caitlin Neal-Jones, Ascension Episcopal School (pictured right), and Kerri Caruso, Mount Carmel Academy (pictured left)

Last April during Louisiana’s annual Legislative Day, we were approached with the idea of participating in the Louisiana Counseling Association’s annual conference. With the help of Christy Sevier at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, we submitted a proposal and were invited to present at the conference. This opportunity tied in nicely to the State and Area Initiatives focused on increasing access and participation from public school counselors.

We found really great success with our presentation. This format could be easily replicated in other states to similar effect. The presentation outline and a summary of findings from the participant survey are included below.

Objectives

The goals of our presentation were:
– Increase awareness of NACAC, SACAC, and professional development opportunities available to counselors in our state
– Gather feedback from participants that we could use to inform State and Area Initiatives to offer programs that would be the most beneficial to public school counselors

Presentation Content

– The role of the school counselor and the importance of high school college counseling in student outcomes
– An overview of NACAC’s guiding principles and and goals
– An overview of SACAC, highlighting professional development opportunities such as Summer Seminar, Sweet Tea Tour, and Annual Conference
– State and Area Initiatives, including Legislative Day, Drive-In Workshops, and Mini-Camp Colleges
– Funding opportunities for Professional Development, including NACAC/SACAC grants and federal funding
– “Lagniappe,” or free or cost efficient resources for college counselors

Participant Survey

At the end of the presentation, we asked session attendees to voluntarily participate in a survey via Google Forms. The vast majority of respondents (25 of 31) were public school counselors. This was great news for us, as that was our target demographic.

The survey asked participants about their perceived strengths and growth areas of their school’s college counseling program. The most common growth areas mentioned were setting aside time to meet with students and families, more professional development and training in college counseling for themselves, and college counseling programming for underclassmen and lower grades.

When asked about the strengths of their counseling program, several counselors mentioned partnering with Career Compass of Louisiana, a non-profit that provides free college and career counseling to students. Another strength commonly mentioned was the success they found hosting college fairs. Finally, a large amount of counselors recognized themselves and their knowledge as one of the greatest resources of their counseling program. In the short answer, counselors mentioned the work they do disseminating information to families, doing their best to provide college and career education, and their willingness to work hard for their students.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said they had never attended any of the professional development opportunities mentioned during the presentation. Of those who have participated in professional development, most had attended state Drive-In Workshops and their annual LACRAO articulation workshop. According to the survey, the largest barrier to participation is simply that counselors had not heard of these opportunities. Additional barriers (with a smaller impact) were cost and the ability to get time off work for professional development.

From a list of 18 options, the respondents identified the following professional development topics as the most interesting or pertinent to their role:

  1. Career planning/ what to major in
  2. Grade level engagement for college and career planning
  3. Helping students navigate the financial aid process
  4. Transitioning to college and what to expect.
  5. Helping students create their college list

Takeaways:

1.) Many counselors recognize themselves and their knowledge as the strength of their school’s college counseling program.

2.) There is a need within our community to better disseminate information, announcements, and resources in a way that reaches public school counselors.

3.) Drive-In Workshops and LACRAO meetings are the most heavily attended events by public school counselors. These events provide opportunities to reach public school counselors and perhaps our state could plan crossover events targeted to public school counselors that coincide with Drive-In Workshops and LACRAO.

 

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