Soldotna High School’s guidance counseling department is following in the footsteps of Skyview Middle School Guidance Counselor Natalie Kant, becoming just the second recipient of the American School Counselor Association, or ASCA, RAMP award in both the district and the state.
The Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) recognizes individual schools for delivering a comprehensive guidance counseling program, which is determined after the counselors submit a lengthy application detailing how they align with the nationally accepted and recognized model.
Soldotna High School Guidance Counselors Margaret Griffin and Megan Murphy said that their department has been working towards the RAMP recognition for about five years.
“I kind of came in at the end of it and Erin Neisinger, who was the counselor before me, started the process with Margaret,” Murphy said. “And our administrator (Principal Tony Graham) has been very supportive of our program and without that, we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
The detailed application requires counselors to show that they meet requirements within the 12 different components of the program, including mindsets and behaviors for student success and closing-the-gap result reports.
Griffin said that this recognition shows that their guidance department has reached a level of compliance with the national model.
“There’s been a lot of research that has gone into what a comprehensive counseling program should be… and the fact that we’re following that speaks volumes about our district being on the cutting edge,” Griffin said.
Both Griffin and Murphy work to make students feel welcome in the counselors office at Soldotna High School, no matter what their reason for stopping by is.
“Any student can come in at any time for any reason,” Griffin said. “It’s not stigmatized. Kids always come in to get a snack. We have student-use computers…. We have kids who come and each lunch in here and in addition to that, we have kids who are here to see us and need to talk to us. We work hard to maintain that environment.”
The counselors said that many of the requirements of the award were practices being used throughout the district already.
“Because of the leadership in our district, a lot of the things required for RAMP, our schools are already doing,” Griffin said. “You need to change a few things, add a few things, but for the most part you’re already in compliance, so I want to encourage other schools in our district to go for it.”
By completing all 12 application components and passing a review by the ASCA, Soldotna High School’s guidance department becomes the second in the state, after Skyview Middle School, to receive the RAMP recognition. Both Griggin and Murphy said that Skyview’s guidance counselor Natalie Kant, who received RAMP recognition in June 2017, was a trove of resources during their application and review process, helping with editing and pinpointing where the application could be improved.
“One of our major road blocks was our use of time requirement,” Griffin said. “We were tasked with being the test coordinators, and that’s a position with an added duty while one of the requirements (of RAMP) is that we spend 80 percent in direct service, but we could never make that happen with the added test coordinator position.”
Griffin said that Graham showed his support by offering the test coordinating position to teachers in the school, instead of the counselors.
“That freed up our time and was the pivotal moment when we decided to jump in and focus on our counseling program, make it student focused, data driven and comprehensive,” Griffin said.
This summer, the counselors will attend the ASCA annual conference and receive an award recognizing their achievement. From there, they will have to continue their student driven work in preparation for the next round of applications in five years.
“The certification is good for five years, so our next step is to take the feedback they gave us and continue to develop and improve our program,” Griffin said.
This recognition also helps to mark the beginning of Alaska School Counseling Week. Gov. Bill Walker announced in a press release that Feb. 5 through 9 should be taken to recognize the “hard work and promote the importance of committed school counselors across our great state.”
Reach Kat Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org