Posted on: April 13, 2021

Homage to High School Counselors

Homage to High School Counselors

As part of our efforts to recruit students for our Fall 2021 semester (our inaugural class for FXUA), I have been interviewing high school counselors from around the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. Not having spent a great deal of time with this secondary school population, I have been struck by one surprising and recurring aspect: many of the individuals who are steering the direction of today’s high school students have left highly-visible, significantly more compensated positions in the public and private sectors to “give back” to the next generations. Where, in my generation, counselors were primarily administrative fixtures intent on keeping you in school, today’s counselors have taken a much more robust role: leveraging their real-life experiences for the benefit of today’s youth.

So, how does this aspect of each counselor’s background come to light?

Like any good interviewer, I spend some time ahead of each call viewing the person’s professional background via LinkedIn.  In the last two weeks alone, I have had the opportunity to meet the following individuals:

  • A highly-decorated retired senior military individual who has chosen to go into the secondary school system to continue the 4-generation legacy of his family by serving as either teachers or counselors;
  • A former chief learning officer from a notable restaurant chain;
  • A paralegal who, prior to stepping into a counselor role, worked for one of the largest law firms in the country; and,
  • A former federal agency executive.

As a driven professional myself, I usually start our discussions asking what prompted them to leave a seemingly well-compensated position to opt into the public-school systems. For some, it is the desire to be home while raising their families and, for others, it is a dedicated decision to “give back” to the next generations. Either way, these individuals provide a resource to students who are seeking possibilities for their lives – a truly noble and meaningful discourse.

For me, this exercise has truly been eye-opening and represents a significant change since I was in high school (yes, in the dark ages before there was fire!) Further, it has made me better appreciate the values and attitudes that these counselors are bringing to an often-maligned public school system. In most cases, I have found them open to discuss new ideas, very protective of their student base and willing to engage in “what-if” scenarios which were always a big part of their previous professional backgrounds.

The good news is that our curriculum at FXUA has centered around certain business attributes (e.g., micro-credentials and competencies) and our network relies heavily on the advice and guidance of senior level business leaders. As such, when I am able to discuss our business orientation with these individuals – we are able to do so without so much as missing a beat!

Where I entered this realm late last year, I was weeping for the next generation. Now, after countless interviews, I have walked away applauding the efforts of this current generation of counselors and high school leaders. For parents, you should feel lucky to have this group providing a sounding-board for your own progenies. For us, as higher education professionals, we actually share a very common bond with these individuals – a desire for each student’s success.

I look forward to continuing my journey through the secondary schools and finding new stories that will continue to elevate my optimism for the next generations. A big thanks to all of you who have opted to give back your special skills to your students!

About Brad Dawson

Brad DawsonBrad Dawson is the Chief Student Experience Officer at Fairfax University of America (FXUA) and author of “The Disruptive Warrior – The Hero’s Journey to Corporate Actualization”. He has nearly four decades of management consulting success with over a decade of that time working with colleges and universities to build relevant and measurable programs. He is a frequent presenter to national and international audiences and has been published in over 100 different periodicals on a variety of management, strategy and operational business topics.
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