• Ashley Johnson

National School Counseling Week

This week, February 4-8, 2019, is National School Counseling Week. The purpose of the week is to celebrate our school counselors for their hard work and dedication to helping our students succeed. Counselors in Detroit play a critical role in helping our youth know they are college material and how to navigate the path to continue their education beyond high school.

To celebrate, we caught up with Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies’ college counselor John Johnson to discuss the lessons he has learned along the way as a school counselor.

DCAN: Why did you become a school counselor?

JJ: Two events come to mind when I reflect on these questions. I think back to my senior year of high school. I remember the struggles/concerns I had about going to/paying for college. I come from a working-class background. Both of my parents worked in the factory and did not attend college. They did not have a lot of money to send me to college. In addition, my parents were not familiar with the college-going process. At school, I had a school counselor who didn't engage the senior class about college opportunities. All of this meant that I had to figure out the process (for the most part) by myself. This caused me tons of stress and I made many mistakes.

I also reflect to the day President Obama was elected. I grew up hearing, "You can be whatever you want. You can even be President." I remember hearing that statement and believing that would never happen. After seeing Obama win the election, I realized that I was operating my life with a "Glass Ceiling" mentality.

The reason I became a counselor was to give my students a better experience than I received. When I look at my students, I see CEO's, doctors, lawyers, artists, and leaders. I don't want them to not pursue their dreams because of the same mentality I had. I don't want them to not achieve their goals because there was no one to support them through the challenging process of going to and persisting through college. I want them to have every opportunity available. Furthermore, I love seeing them succeed.

DCAN: Describe your college-going process and how you teach the important lesson of education beyond high school.

JJ: Our college-going process at Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies is surrounded around the three "E’s": Expectation, Engagement, Exposure.

Expectation: We have an expectation that all our students pursue some form of postsecondary education. As our workforce becomes more knowledge driven, it is becoming a necessity that students have some form of postsecondary education to compete in the workforce. We set this expectation as early as 9th grade. Through workshops, students are informed of the importance of a postsecondary degree in helping them achieve their goals. It is also a graduation requirement that seniors must be accepted to at least one postsecondary institution and complete the FAFSA. This is to ensure that when students leave our halls, they have options on what they can do with their lives.

Engagement: We are engaging students about college as early as middle school. Students can participate in programs aimed at creating dialogue about college. Some of those programs include:

● College Fair

● Pre-College Summer Enrichment Fair

● Lunch with an Executive

● Decision Day Celebration

● One-on-One College Counseling Meeting

● Reverse College Fair

Exposure: We expose our students to college though programming, tours and college enrichment opportunities. Beginning in middle school, student have several opportunities to connect to the college atmosphere. Some avenues we take to achieve that are:

● College Tours

● Onsite Admission/Information session at the school

● College Application Month

● FAFSA/Scholarship Night

● Senior College Design Class

● Dual Enrollment

● Pre-College Programs

● Senior Mastery Process

● College Summit

In addition, all our students must participate in the senior master process in which they must complete 60 hours of an internship experience in a career field they are interested in. Once they have completed the practicum, they must complete a senior defense in which they find research and create a product that solves a problem they observed while on their practicum. This process begins the exposure component. Students are taught to think critically on a topic, and they learn to conduct research at the level of a college student.

DCAN: This year’s National School Counseling Week is asking counselors about their school counseling goals and about how counselors are building better humans. What are your goals and challenges for the remainder of the year as you build better humans?

JJ: Goals

● Ensure every senior has been accepted to at least one postsecondary institution

● Help every senior/parent complete the FAFSA by March 1st.

● Help seniors with choosing the "best fit" school for them.

● Assist students with completing as many scholarship opportunities as possible.

● Continue to work with the underclass students, making sure they have access to dual enrollment opportunities, summer enrichment programs, and an understanding of the college going process.

● Build more connections with parents. Create opportunities to teach them about the college going process.


● There is only one college counselor supporting both a middle school and a high school. This does not allow the counselor much time to support both schools.

● Resources: The college counseling department does not have its own budget for college initiatives.

● SAT: Although we have seen improvement in our SAT scores, there is still room to grow. We need an SAT prep program that follows the students from freshmen year.

● We need more individualized counseling for students at the lower level of the high school.

● We need more programs educating parents on the importance of college, the college-going process, and paying for college.

We’re incredibly thankful John took the time to share his lessons learned as a school counselor. If you’re a school counselor, connect with us on Twitter or Facebook and tell us your goals or life lessons for your students. If you’re a student, parent or College Access Champion, tell the counselors in your life why you’re thankful for them. Be sure to tag Detroit College Access Network and use the hashtag #NSCW19.

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