Early college counselor helps students find their path

Published 9:08 am Friday, March 29, 2024

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Kat Pritchard doesn’t give advice.

That may sound strange for a school guidance counselor – she has the job at Davie County Early College High School – but she thinks it’s important for students that age to learn to make their own decisions.

She may give them choices, and the potential outcomes of those choices – good or bad. But in the end, decisions are those of the student.

“Sometimes, it’s empowering to them to find their own solutions,” she said. “When they want help, they can ask for it. I don’t give them advice, but show them their choices.”

She thinks it’s important for the guidance office to be a friendly, welcoming place. Kat didn’t have that when she was in high school.

“Just being a typical teenager is hard. “It’s nice to be here for the kids, to be a voice of encouragement.”

She has been counselor at the early college for the past two years, after first working at Wiley Middle School in Forsyth County. She had no plans to move, even though she drove by the early college campus on her way to work from her home in Woodleaf.

Then, the job here was presented to her.

“I initially said no,” she said. “I thought it through, and thought maybe this is my next step. This just seemed like a really good fit.”

Education wasn’t her first job; she worked in the food industry for years before looking for a change.

“I never thought I would be a guidance counselor,” she said.

Kat earned a degree in crisis counseling, but didn’t want to be stuck in therapy sessions all day.

“As soon as I started my internship (in school counseling), it felt like a good fit. I like the different parts of this job. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with our kids.

“I try to make them feel comfortable around me, and try to make this space feel comfortable. I try to be honest with the kids to help earn their trust.”

Unlike your grandmother’s high school guidance counselor, those today have many more duties than helping to pick out a college.

“There are no typical days here, you just have to learn how to adjust.”

She is the advisor for the Rotary Interact Club, the National Honor Society and has regular seminars with groups of students on issues that should be important to them, issues such as study skills, coping with school and life, and cyber safety.

She tries to implement some “no tech time,” so the students can “unplug” from their electronic devices.

“Ultimately, I want our students to feel good about themselves, and find peace and contentment.”

Everything doesn’t have a right or wrong answer, she tells them.

“I try to help them cope, to see the good in themselves and the strengths in themselves.”

And at times, she hears the horror stories that some students bear when they reach the school.

“I do worry about them, all of the time,” she said.

That’s where she is learning to practice what she preaches; in other words, she’s learning to cope with hearing the students’ problems and not letting it negatively affect her life outside of the school.

“I have the kids (problems) on my mind every day, but I’m learning to do things to help me cope with that.”