A newsletter from your IU 13 High School Counselor

Week of May 26, 2020 - May 29, 2020

This week's password phrase is Well Done Everyone!


In your honor, here is an incredibly inspiring graduation speech about the impact and wisdom of a third grade drop-out. This is worth every second of the ten minutes it takes to watch.
The Most Inspiring Speech: The Wisdom of a Third Grade Dropout Will Change Your Life | Rick Rigsby

More Words of Advice: Be Like a Pencil

by Steve Goodier

It occurs to me that I have a lot in common with a pencil. That’s right – a simple and humble little pencil. Not the fancy mechanical kind. That’s too high-maintenance for me. And I’m not as showy as a plume pen or as smooth as a ball point. I don’t live in bold strokes like a heavy marker. But I’m a lot like a pencil. Here’s how:

1. Like a pencil, I have a built-in eraser. I can correct my mistakes. No, I can't change the past, but I can make it right again. And if I can't erase history (after all, what’s done is done) I can at least erase a great deal of guilt and anger with forgiveness.

2. Like a pencil, I do better if I’m sharpened once in a while. My mind and skills grow dull without occasional honing. Even my spirit and attitudes need refining if I’m to be at my best. And there is something else, too. I find that the difficulties of life wear away at me, and they can either grind me down or shape me into a person who is more capable and creative. The sharpening I get from living through tough times is often painful, but I know it can make me a better person.

3. Pencils work best in a skilled hand. And like a pencil, I can do some pretty terrific things with a little guidance. Other people bring out the best in me, and with the help of others, I can do far more than I ever can alone.

4. Like a pencil, I should leave my mark whenever possible. I too often underestimate my influence on another. I have daily opportunities to leave something good behind. That is what it means to leave my mark. It may be in small ways, it may be in the lives of people I love, people I have touched or nurtured, or even in incidental conversations struck with strangers. But, I have a mark to leave and should use every opportunity to leave something good behind.

5. Like a pencil, it is what is on the inside that matters. A pencil without lead is useless. And a yellow pencil will not do when a black or red pencil is called for. What is on the inside is all important. My outer appearance matters less than I probably think, while it’s the stuff on the inside that folks notice about me. Whether it is understanding or intolerance, love or bitterness, peace or unrest, kindness or self-centeredness, hope or despair, courage or fear, what is on the inside matters most.

6. A pencil works best on paper or canvass. It will never leave its mark on water and will wear itself down against a mirror. I do best knowing my strengths and limitations. I can’t do everything well and that is okay. There is still plenty of good to be done by doing what I do best.

7. And finally, like a pencil, the biggest part of my purpose in this life can be summed up in three words: to be useful. When I’m too broken to hold it together, when everything is ground away or worn down, when I no longer have anything to contribute, I know my life is coming to an end. But until then, my job is to be useful.

Like I said, I have a lot in common with a pencil.

Big picture

Strive Virtual College Exploration for Juniors and Undecided Seniors

Strive is offering a FREE virtual college exploration fair, through May 28! The college exploration fair offers virtual presentation for juniors (and undecided seniors) to explore college opportunities, with 500 + colleges in 47 states and 13 countries in attendance! Students who attend will hear from admissions officers ready to share tips on applying to college, and can choose from over 300 presentations and information sessions.

From Tuesday, May 26 to Thursday, May 28, the fair is featuring "Liberal Arts Days", featuring colleges such as Ohio Wesleyan, Cornell, McDaniel, Ursinus, and Juniata, among others.

Click here for more information and to register:, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

And Another: Coalition for College May Virtual College Fair

Thursday, May 28, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

A free event recommended for students in grades 9 - 11.

At this virtual event, you'll choose from "rooms" where representatives from 100 colleges will share an overview of their schools and answer your questions. Register for up to four sessions to hear from and connect with up to 20 schools.

REGISTER HERE for this event.

Big picture

For Juniors: New Common App Info

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. (Excerpt)

Last week, Common App announced the addition of another essay question to this fall’s application:

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.

This 250-word essay is completely optional, and applicants won’t be penalized if they choose not to use it. Still, the presence of this space meets two needs at the same time:

  • Juniors can talk at length about any disruptions they’ve had in their college search as a result of the quarantine.This gives them space to talk about first (or second) test dates that got cancelled, summer plans for classes or internships that had to change, campus tours that never happened, any impact this has had on their grades due to changes in the way classes were delivered—and more.
  • It gives them the chance to answer the remaining essay prompts without referring to the quarantine.One of the rules of good essay writing is “if it’s somewhere else in the application, don’t write about it.”Once a student provides a full accounting of how the quarantine has required them to reroute their college search, they can use the other essay topics to get back to the business of showing colleges who they are, what they think about, and more.With so many colleges going test optional next year, these narratives will become more important than ever.Thanks to Common App, that importance doesn’t have to be watered down.

The key to using this new prompt successfully is to make sure juniors understand how to make the most of it.This isn’t the space to talk about poor ninth grades, or spraining a wrist during sophomore softball season.Neither of these events were affected by the quarantine, so if they end up in the application, they go somewhere else—students should not see this as an extra 250 words to talk about whatever they wish.

The harder challenge will more likely lie in having students minimize their discussion of the quarantine in other essays.Mentioning the quarantine too often has the potential of weakening the impact of the student’s response to the quarantine prompt; it can also give the colleges the feeling that the student has no real answer for the other prompts, if all they want to talk about is the quarantine. The focus of the other essay questions remains the same—showing the college who the student is. It’s vital that they understand how, in a season of great change, this goal remains the same.

SAT/ACT Advice

While testing dates for March, April and May were cancelled for the SAT and ACT, the summer administrations of both tests have not yet been cancelled. We recommend registering for these dates quickly. There is a tremendous pent up demand and preference will be given to juniors.

To stay up to date with the changing plans for the SAT and the ACT, please refer to the following links:


o SAT –

o ACT –

Online FAFSA Resources

Check out these online FAFSA resources - #FormYourFuture’s “The Guide” and the Federal Student Aid Information Center, which operates both a live online chat and a phone helpline for students and families.

Big picture

Reminder: Pennsylvania Career Zone (PACareerZone)

High School students in all non-public schools served by IU 13 School Counselors have access to PA Career Zone. This website is a web-based career exploration and career planning resource that is very user-friendly and interactive.

Students, use this site to learn more about your interests, abilities and work values, career options that match them, and education and training required for careers. Use the "Budget Your Life" tool to learn how much money you will need to earn to support your life goals. Go to to login to your existing account, or contact your counselor if you do not have an account.

Career Focus: Market Research Analyst

This career video provides day-in-the-life information about jobs, occupations, and tasks related to Market Research Analyst and Specialist positions including Marketing Coordinators, Supervisors, Managers, Directors, and Officers. Do you like data? Communicating with people? Research? Details? Being independent? This might be a career for you!
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists Career Video
Big picture

Parent Guide to Resilience

Parents and caregivers, here is a link to an amazing FREE tool for you to use as you look for ways to help your family build resilience during this Covid-19 Pandemic and beyond! The guide is available to read at this link, or, if you're short on time, there is an audio recording of each chapter. You will NOT regret checking this out!!

How Can You Encourage Independent Learning While Your Kids Are At Home?

by Amir Nathoo, CEO & Co-founder at, for

Imagine this: You’re sitting in the office of a college admission’s officer a few years from today. You and your child, now a senior in high school, are there for an interview. The officer looks up from her desk and asks a question that has become common: "What did you do back in 2020 when everyone was stuck inside? How’d you spend your time during the quarantine?"

You probably know how your child would answer. "I mostly just did my homework then played on my phone," they might say. The admissions counselor would be polite but wouldn’t have much more to ask about, and she’d move on.

Now, consider another possibility. Imagine your child looks at the counselor and says: "I learned how to design games using the Python coding language. I even made friends with a kid from the UK who was also stuck inside and was taking the same class as me. We made a game together, and eventually my uncle who's a programmer helped me get it on the app store. My friend and I actually still talk. We’re going to meet up when his family visits the states in June."

You could guess how the admission’s officer would react. More importantly, you know which scenario would be the better memory for your young learner.

Of course, this is a made-up story. But a version of it will happen many times in the near future. "How did you spend quarantine?" might become the new version of "Where were you when you heard?" about the moon landing, or 9/11.

These are difficult and unusual times. We can’t pretend things are normal. But most importantly, we need to radically rethink our definition of "school" right now.

Why re-creating school at home isn’t working

Schools worldwide have been thrown into remote learning. But the problem is that teachers and students are not set up to make this quick shift. Many parents find themselves printing worksheets sent home by teachers or trying to make sense of new material. This is hard enough for parents who have time to help their children. It’s even harder for parents who are working. They’re caught between doing their job and helping their kids. It’s a can’t-win situation.

Not to mention every parent knows that learning is a social activity. Kids learn best when they are collaborating with other people, and that means adults and other kids. Staring at a stack of lifeless worksheets, or following a self-paced digital curriculum is not only boring but also depressing.

So it’s not surprising that parents and children are feeling anxious. While a global pandemic rages on, families are pressured to keep up with a flow of homework, curriculum and even tests.

Another path forward

At the same time that the world experiences untold physical and emotional suffering, we’re also witnessing people adapt in incredible ways. Much of this comes through leveraging powerful technology taken for granted during more typical times.

Right now, families have the chance to experience shared adventure and closer connection as you grapple with challenges. You can help your child to make friends outside of your local community by engaging online.

Instead of adhering to the typical curriculum, your child now has the freedom to learn the subjects and take on the projects that you’d never usually have the opportunity to do. You know what I’m talking about: that list of things that sound great to do someday, but never actually happen.

These valuable learning experiences include things like going on a virtual nature hike with your family while doing bird-watching or discussing cloud formations. Maybe planting herb or vegetable seeds at home and making observations as they grow. You can even start a business with your child with help from online resources that show you how.

You can open up the chance for your child to truly explore their interests or even try new things that might not fit the mold of their typical favorites but sound just crazy enough to try. And you can give your child the chance to engage with modern technology to unlock its most promising benefits: to help foster human connection across borders, cultures and beliefs and to unlock learning experiences that were impossible in earlier times.

It’s likely that you may not be able to spend hours every day providing these experiences for your child. Fortunately, there are more resources than ever before for parents who are looking to provide their kids with curiosity building learning experiences from home. Here are three favorites:

  • GoNoodle: Movement videos created by child development experts

  • Outschool: A marketplace for live video chat classes for kids ages 3 to 18 (full disclosure; this is the company I co-founded and am CEO of)

  • TED-Ed: Hundreds of “lessons worth sharing” made by hosts of the popular TED Talk series

When you look back on how your child spent their time in quarantine, they probably won’t remember time spent on worksheets and homework. But if you can help them find a new interest, learn a new skill, or spark a new connection, that’s a memory that can shine bright for your child, even during a time of darkness.

Parent Tip Sheets - Intervention Guides for Dealing with Academic Problems, Depression, Anxiety, and Attention

Pearson's has provided, free of charge, the following Tip Sheets for parents.

A Boost, A Break, And a Bravo for the "Other Essential Workers" - YOU!

By Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, PhD, Vice President, Research and Development

It has been heartwarming to watch as people around the world joined #ClapBecauseWeCare to cheer essential workers as they left their daily shifts, such as the 7 p.m. citywide cheer in New York City. Ever since this well-deserved ritual began in Wuhan, China, in January, it has reminded us of the health care workers, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, and many others who not only put their lives at risk, but also keep life going for the rest of us.

We should keep cheering them and thanking them.

I propose that we also need to cheer and thank another group that is essential during this crisis: Those parenting during a pandemic. They, too, are “all in” during this pandemic (and, frankly, all the time):

  • Some parenting adults are also essential workers who try to juggle their jobs with their responsibilities at home while worrying about keeping their families safe. If that weren’t enough, they’re also trying to figure out how to deal with kids at home full time due to school, child care, and summer program closures. (They’ve had to learn how to be teachers, too.)
  • Some parenting adults are laid off or furloughed, often from jobs that didn’t pay well in the first place. They’re dealing with most of the same stuff, but add a huge dose of financial insecurity on top of that.
  • Some parenting adults are working from home and are grateful for that flexibility and grateful to be with their kids. But they are exhausted and stressed from trying to be responsible parents and workers at the same time. So every waking moment is consumed by a fragmented mix of work time interrupted by kid time interrupted by work time.

When 7 p.m. rolls around each day, these home-bound essential workers don’t leave their shifts so we can collectively clap for them. They’re just getting started. They’re on 24/7, and there aren’t any days off.

So if a 7 p.m. collective clap won’t work, what might we do instead? I propose three things: A boost, a break, and a bravo for those parenting in a pandemic.

A Boost: Renew their energy with supportive check-ins

Parents may need to be reminded that they’re not alone and that other people go through, and survive, what they’re going through. Almost 20 years ago, Search Institute completed a study of parents of teenagers that found that about half of all parenting adults didn’t have anyone outside their family they could talk to about parenting issues. Whenever we talk with parenting adults who participate in our Keep Connected workshop series, they say one of the most important things about it is that they learned they were not alone in some of the challenges they were dealing with. A 2019 FrameWorks study for the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement suggested comparing family, school, and community partnerships to a space launch in which everyone plays a critical, but different role. Right now, though, parents are playing too many!

Parenting during a pandemic is hard—really, really hard. It helps to be able to talk to someone else who’s going through it, too. One way youth workers, parent educators, teachers, and other family-serving professionals can facilitate these kinds of connections is offering a virtual space where parenting adults can connect from time to time, share their highs and lows, and talk a bit about what they need to talk about.

Digital Check-Ins to Keep Connected, Search Institute’s new, free online resource, is designed to make it easy for you to create opportunities for parents to connect with each other. It consists of 30-minute facilitator guides for online conversations with six to eight parenting adults. The first six sessions focus on developmental relationships. The remaining sessions focus on other topics on

Each session stands alone, so you can do as many or as few (in any order) as you’d like. Parent participants check in with each other via videoconference or phone (whatever works in your community), then you lead a brief discussion of the session topic. Finally, you introduce the activities they can do at home. Which brings us to giving parents a break. . . .

A Break: Offer ways for families to get perspective and reconnect

One of the most disturbing side-effects of the stay-at-home orders has been a spike in domestic violence likely caused by, among other things, increased stress and constant contact within families that had strained relationships. (If you know of families where domestic violence is a concern, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.)

For most families, however, the increased stress may just shorten fuses or cause family members to feel less well-connected to each other. The lack of regular routine may leave them exhausted, so they eat dinner in front of the TV instead of together. Or they may have had their best conversations when they were out and about . . . which they can’t do now.

How might you prompt or encourage people parenting during a pandemic to find space, an oasis, where they can slow down, take a break to just do something they enjoy—not trying to get something else done? Maybe have a meal together. Maybe take a walk or play a game or tell stupid jokes or read aloud a book. Something they can do just because they want to.

The new Digital Check-Ins to Keep Connected resource offers a curated set of short activities for families to do together that are specifically aimed at reflecting on and strengthening their relationships. We picked some that don’t require any supplies families won’t have on hand and don’t require leaving home or the neighborhood. Additional family activities are available on (free; no registration).

A Bravo: Celebrate what you appreciate

Finally, as I’ve talked with youth workers and teachers in recent weeks, they’ve said they’ve often had more contact with people parenting in a pandemic than they’ve ever had. Some have found that to be enriching and rewarding. Others say it’s terrifying because they don’t know what to say or do. I suggested that they may not need to say much at all, except maybe asking some open-ended questions to help you get to know the parenting adult and child a little better. Give them a chance to get to know you too as a person.

Just as important is to do what many youth workers and teachers already do: Start with specific things you notice that you appreciate about them or their children. Regardless of their specific situation, parenting adults with children or teens at home could use a “good job” or virtual pat on the back from time to time. They mostly know when they’ve flubbed; they’re their own worst critics. Building trust starts with them knowing you’re on their side and that you care about and value them.

A Ticker Tape Parade for Parents?

In the dominant U.S. culture, we’ve made what happens in families mostly an individual, private concern. It was their choice to have kids, so they have to deal with whatever it is.

The reality is quite different. As a nation and a society, we collectively depend on parenting adults to nurture each new generation of citizens, workers, and leaders. Families, in all their rich diversity, are one of the vital building blocks of our society.

Perhaps, then, we should plan on holding a Ticker Tape parade down Broadway in New York City to honor parents after the promised parade for the healthcare workers and first responders. After all, they are playing thousands of vital roles—many that we don’t even know about—that are carrying us through this pandemic.

There’s only one problem: They’ll already be on to the next thing, whatever it might be. After all, they’re on 24/7, and there aren’t any days off. They don’t mind, though. They do it because they love their kids. So maybe the parade isn’t practical. But we can say “Bravo,” offer our support, and remind them that we’re on their team, so they don’t have to do this alone.

Nurturing the youngest among us is our shared responsibility. We can thank parenting adults, give them a break, and do our part also to connect with young people so they experience the many strong, well-rounded relationships they need to learn, grow, and thrive, even in challenging times.