Counselor Profile: Kelli Clay

DCSD Counselor Profile: Kelli Clay, Rocky Heights Middle School
Posted on 03/03/2020
Counselor Profile: Kelli Clay
Rocky Heights Middle School

For Kelli Clay, a Counselor for Prevention at Douglas County School District’s (DCSD) Rocky Heights Middle School (RHMS), the transition to remote learning presented new challenges when it comes to the emotional well-being and safety of RHMS students. Along with her counseling team, Kelli shifted gears to ensure students and families continue receiving the same support they would get in a school environment.

What have you been doing since DCSD’s move to remote learning?

As a counseling team, we met by video conference a couple of times in the first week of remote learning. We’re currently trying to find the balance between providing support without inundating families with information. Our grade-level counselors are touching base with students they have been supporting on a more regular basis. Being a grant-funded Counselor for Prevention, I don’t have a regular caseload so I’ve been reaching out to the Peer Leaders of Sources of Strength, asking them how things are going, what they’ve been doing, etc. Basically, I want them to know that we’re here and that we want to support them.

How have you been communicating with families?

Our team put together a Helpful Hints newsletter so we can combine resources onto a single document for families. It has ideas for setting up a home classroom, getting back into daily routines, having a designated school space, setting boundaries, and taking care of social-emotional well-being. We include ideas for having fun as a family, things to do, board games built around Sources of Strength. We’ll continue the newsletter as long as we need to, adding ideas and resources as we go.

What kind of social-emotional learning resources do you include?

It’s mostly reminders of things to do, like practicing daily thankfulness. Sources of Strength put together a daily schedule based on the eight strengths of Family Support, Positive Friends, Mentors, Healthy Activities, Generosity, Spirituality, Medical Access, and Mental Health. We all do better when we have routines and we have to figure out how to make our routines match where we are in the world.

How are you working with students who might need more support than a newsletter or a check-in?

If a student were having a crisis, we would handle it using the protocols DCSD has been sharing out during this remote learning time. We’re working very hard to combine the protocols and guidelines we already have in place with the fact that we aren’t face-to-face with our students. We have the tools -- it just looks different now. For example, when we normally do an assessment of any kind in school, we always do it as a team of two. Even though we as counselors are not physically together, we can still contact our mental health team in our schools to work through the situation. In a school, the counselors would stay with the student through the entire response. Now we have to do that digitally and rely a lot more on law enforcement in the case that safety might be an issue. Now, more than ever, we have to be transparent and communicative so we can appropriately respond to situations and get students the help they need.

What’s your advice for getting through this time?

I think it’s really important not to forget that with today’s technology we have ways of staying connected. We have to stay connected to people we are close to and find connections to those who know us. It’s the biggest thing right now. That might mean going outside of our comfort zones to make connections with people in our world. It’s really pushed me to remind myself to text my family members, to call them, to video chat with my coworkers. Just checking in with each other and finding ways to care about each other that we’ve maybe not had to think about until now.

Thanks for chatting with me, Kelli! Where else can families find resources?

Several places, actually. They can visit the DCSD Local Resources page for information human services, useful webinars, and medical services. The Coronavirus Updates page will keep them informed on what is going on around DCSD such as end-of-year wrap-up plans. If they are looking for resources on social-emotional well-being, I invite them to check out the DCSD Health, Wellness and Prevention department or talk to their child's school counselor.

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