TENNERTON – Buckhannon-Upshur High School has reconfigured one of its departments to make it a more inclusive and up-to-date center where students can go for help and needed services.
The former guidance counseling department is now known as Buccaneer Student Services.
The staff is nearly all new to the high school, and each of the job descriptions have been updated and revamped to conform with the needs of today’s students. B-UHS Assistant Principal H. Randall Roy said there was somewhat of a “perfect storm,” which occurred that allowed for the creation of this new way of assisting the students.
“The opportunity came up with some people retiring and others who moved to different schools, so we had the entire office –which was known as ‘counselors’ or ‘guidance’ – now empty,” Roy said. “As we started thinking about how to fill and improve the positions, the idea of the dean of students came about, and that role consists of support systems and innovative programs.”
Roy said the school system hired Jones as well as two new counselors – Anthony McDaniels and Suzie McCoy – and changed the department to the Buccaneer Student Services. He said the department also has a technology integration specialist, Danielle Rexroad, who helps students and staff with technology problems they have such as signing on to the network or using new programs with which they’re not familiar.
Dean of Students Shauna Jones said since the mid-1990s, school counselors are the norm and they are no longer referred to as “guidance counselors.”
“The past 15 years or so, school counselors also work with career paths as well as hooking in with social workers and outside agencies because we have a hefty number of students who need food assistance,” Jones said. “Along with that, we also partner with Trump’s Salon in town to do an Angel Tree to help some of our neediest students. We are definitely moving away from the term ‘guidance’ and moving toward being the Buccaneer Students Services.”
The office has a room Community Care therapists, the ABC Program through Mountain CAP of W.Va., Inc. and Creative Beginnings may utilize for counseling.
“We want this to be the hub of where, if a student or family needs direct assistance from us, or linked into community resources, that this is the place to come so they don’t feel as if they are lost,” Jones said.
Roy added that although the roles of student counselors have changed, they still provide academic services, such as helping students schedule classes, enroll and check requirements for graduation. Those duties have not gone away, he said.
“The need in our community, with the drug crisis and poverty, has intensified,” Jones said. “We still have the scheduling – it didn’t go away.”
Jones said the mission of the Buccaneer Student Services is to provide a compass toward employment, enrollment or enlistment, while also providing lifelong resiliency skills.
“It’s tough being a teenager, and it always has been, but more so today,” Jones said. “Helping students develop the skills to get through here that will last them until adulthood, and help them choose one of those three paths – employment, enrollment or enlistment – is our goal.”
Roy said students, parents or grandparents checking on the availability of scholarships can get help through the Buccaneer Student Services Department.
“Buccaneer Student Services has a Facebook page, Twitter and an Instagram page. It’s just a way to push information out and provide communication links and answers,” he said.
Another big aspect of the Buccaneer Student Services is continuing to develop relationships with the community.
“We currently have an intern and a practicum student who are both seniors,” Jones said. “We try to expose the students to as much of what life is like as possible.”
Jones said building resiliency skills is vital; some examples of those skills include stress management, mindfulness, being able to navigate tough conversations with family members or peers and teaching students to communicate with others and teachers.
“Sometimes with all of our technology and social media, communication goes by the wayside, so one of our goals is to help students learn to have good communication skills,” she said.
Roy said the B-UHS mission statement says the school’s goal is to provide students with opportunities to grow socially and academically.
“That, to me, means when I run into students in Walmart 10 years after they graduate, I want them to be happy and healthy,” Roy said. “I don’t know what that looks like for you, I don’t know whether that is being a truck driver, a schoolteacher, or a doctor, lawyer or engineer – it doesn’t matter. If you are healthy and happy, I fell like we have done our job. That will improve our community.”
Jones said she feels B-UHS students are embracing the changes and coming on board with the new Buccaneer Student Services Team.
“Mr. Vincent commended the Student Services Team during a meeting yesterday,” Jones said. “He said that the transition to a whole new department and a whole new philosophy has gone very smoothly. He said he is hearing that from students as well as from the parents and is hearing that from the faculty. For us, it is going to continue to grow and develop, based on our community, our school and from the state level. We are flexible and adaptable.”
Roy said the atmosphere of the Student Services area has changed a lot.
“There are pictures of Prince on the walls,” he said, laughing.
“We want the welcome area of the Buccaneer Student Services to be as warm as possible,” Jones said. “We want students, as well as faculty, families and community members, to feel like this is a warm place when they walk in. We have a quote on the wall and that is our mantra – ‘Everything is figure-outable,’ which came from a book I read. We want our students to see that and not give up so easily. If they trust us and trust the process, we can usually figure something out.”