Thank You School Counselors
Feb. 9, 2024
Counselors Support Students in All Grades
Today marks the end of National School Counseling Week, Feb. 5-9. In this week's Friday Connect, we want to focus our attention on the contributions of staff members who work with students in our middle school, elementary schools and beyond to support their academic, career and social emotional well being.
Meet Our Chehalis Middle School Counseling Team
CMS Counselor for last names M-Z
Hill is now in her 10th year with the Chehalis School District. A W.F. West graduate, she earned her Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Washington State University. After college, Hill worked as a community corrections officer for the Department of Corrections for 10 years. The potential for providing early intervention for kids was what drew her to school counseling. Hill volunteered in an AVID program before seeking her Master's degree from City University to see if working with young people was a good fit for her. Hill said she loves getting to know students and seeing them grow and change over the three years they are at CMS and appreciates the camaraderie she feels not only with her fellow counselors, but with all of the staff in her building.
"Teachers will come to us if they know we're working with a student and tell us they're doing better in class or they got a good grade on a test because they know it's important to us to know they're doing better," Hill said.
CMS College/Career Advisor & At-Risk Specialist
Ledgerwood has been working for the Chehalis School District since 2004. A graduate of Mead High School, the field of counseling always interested Ledgerwood because she wanted to do something where she could help people and be a source of confidential support. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Washington State University and Master's degree from Eastern Washington University. Ledgerwood had always wanted to work with young people in some capacity but initially worked at Cascade Mental Health, primarily with adults. A conversation with District Mental Health Counselor Brian Adams encouraged Ledgerwood to consider working as a counselor for the Chehalis School District to fulfill that drive.
"For me, the most rewarding part is watching kids grow and change into the person they're going to become and utilizing all the people in this building to support them in that process," Ledgerwood said.
CMS Counselor for last names A-L
State is now in his 10th year working for the Chehalis School District. A W.F. West graduate, State earned his Associate's degree from Centralia College, his Bachelor's degree in Communications and Journalism from Eastern Washington University. After college, State started coaching with his dad, the late Jack State, at W.F. West and discovered a love for working with young people. With two parents who were teachers, State knew he wanted to do something besides be a classroom teacher so he earned his Master's degree in education with an emphasis on guidance counseling from St. Martin's University.
"I love that our job is dynamic. It's different every day and there's always new opportunities to help," State said.
Meet Our Elementary Mental Health Specialists
Jacob Ford, Mental Health Specialist, James Lintott Elementary (grades K-2)
This is Ford's first year working for the Chehalis School District. After graduating from W.F. West High School, he enrolled at Centralia College intending to go into the nursing field but said his work in his church's ministry showed him that he felt called to a more face-to-face people helping field like counseling.
After earning his Associate's degree from Centralia College, he earned his Bachelor's degree in applied psychology from Multnomah University. After graduation, Ford applied to the Chehalis School District actually hoping to work at Green Hill Academic School and was offered an interim position at James Lintott Elementary. He had never pictured himself working with younger students but said he has learned a lot and come to enjoy it. When he was offered the job permanently, he said yes.
"I've grown to love this age group. It's a really fun time in their lives. There's a lot of joy and happiness I get to experience with them and to see that light in their eyes brings me a lot of joy, too," Ford said.
Mika Woodruff, Mental Health Specialist, Orin Smith Elementary (grades 3-5)
This is Woodruff's first year with the Chehalis School District. A graduate of R.A. Long High School, she had always been intrigued by human behavior and studied reasons why humans do the things they do. She chose to study psychology because she believed it would continue to be of interest to her and it would teach her valuable life skills. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Central Washington University and started her career as a behavior therapy assistant but quickly realized her interests were more aligned with mental health. For the last six years, she has been a mental health support to children in grades K-12.
Woodruff's job at Orin Smith frequently involves teaching social skills, mediating friendship concerns, and general light intervention therapy.
"Each day, I get to explore new topics, conversations, and do creative activities with young minds who are excited to understand themselves. I love my job because it's unpredictable, important and heartwarming," Woodruff said.
Meet Our Counselors in Other Programs
Jacey Hinkle, Mental Health Specialist for Cornerstone
Jacey Hinkle has been working for the Chehalis School District since 2020 but only recently took on the new position as Mental Health Specialist for the Cornerstone program. Cornerstone was created this year to support Chehalis families and prepare students for the journey ahead. Our focus is on young learners whose families may appreciate assistance as they navigate the educational system - and the challenges in life. Cornerstone staff walk alongside our Chehalis families as they explore educational opportunities leading to post secondary degrees and credentials.
"We're starting with getting to know families and parents and seeing what their needs are and how to help. Seeking mental health services can be intimidating and uncomfortable so I try to make the process as comfortable as possible," Hinkle said of what her job mainly entails.
A graduate of Tumwater High School, Hinkle had a really great counselor when she was young who inspired her to want to be a counselor when she grew up. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Social Services from Central Washington University and her Master's degree in social work from Arizona State University Online. Hinkle also recently received her Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker designation through Washington State, which requires 3,000 hours of postgraduate supervised experience. Her experience was split between Comprehensive Mental Health in Ellensburg and Cascade Mental Health in Chehalis.
Hinkle started with the Chehalis School District as the Mental Health Specialist for James Lintott Elementary School.
"I loved working in the elementary school with the kids and seeing their imagination and getting to use that in a therapeutic setting," Hinkle said.
Erin White, Representing True North at Chehalis Middle School and W.F. West High School
Thanks to a partnership with Capital Region ESD 113 and the Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD), secondary students in the Chehalis School District now have expanded access to prevention and early intervention services through CR-ESD 113's True North program. The Chehalis School District has a long standing relationship with True North, who has historically provided Tier 3 Substance Use Treatment services to students at the middle and high schools.
This expanded partnership, initiated in December, allows True North to work with students providing Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports focused on prevention and early intervention for behavioral health, including substance use, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
These services will be provided by Erin White, who has been working for True North at W.F. West High School since September 2023. White explained that these expanded services will likely mean more positive outcomes for students because she does not have to wait for a formal diagnosis of a problem to begin intervention with a student.
"It's important because it broadens the scope of what I'm allowed to do. I can offer intervention
before they have a diagnosis and I don't have to wait until they've already crossed the threshold into
a problem," White said.
The same is true for students presenting with early symptoms of a mental health issue, like anxiety, depression, or weak coping skills. These expanded services will allow White to provide early intervention services designed to build coping skills and better manage their personal well being.
The focus on comprehensive behavioral health, including both substance use and mental health provides an opportunity to offer effective services to a broader array of individuals, meeting the needs of more students. According to Healthy Youth Survey Data across 8th graders in Washington State, approximately 4% report current use of alcohol and 3% report current use of marijuana, while 62% reported struggling with feeling nervous or anxious in the past 2 weeks and 35% reported feeling sad or hopeless in the last year.
White's work with True North is meant to work in conjunction with efforts already underway by counselors in Chehalis schools. She said she will meet with the counseling teams at W.F. West and CMS regularly to create a plan for students with referrals. White plans to be at W.F. West three days a week and Chehalis Middle School two days a week. The partnership will allow for True North's
expanded services through the end of the 2023-2024 school year.
"Hopefully, it will show a need that will help us get more permanent funding," White said.