Marcus Whitfield, School Counselor November 1, 2020 By wpengine When I joined Friendship, I was wowed by the convocation experience—the whole production, the investment in students and staff. What do you like about being a counselor? I like that, in addition to their teachers and principal, I’m a person that students can talk to in their times of need. I’m a student advocate. They come to me and tell me their problems. I listen, offer suggestions, and sometimes a broader perspective. I also support teachers and parents with strategies to meet social-emotional needs. I especially like working with our middle schoolers. I see these students a lot. During the pre-teenage years, students can especially struggle. They might also get into conflicts with each other. I sometimes act as a mediator to help them navigate their differences, whether they’re at school or at home. What has it been like to switch to remote counseling? It’s difficult to not see students in person on a daily basis. Zoom is the way we communicate. I go into Zoom classrooms. I meet with students, teachers, and parents via Zoom. It is a little challenging, but we have to adapt. Are there any ways that you’ve found helpful for students to improve their mental health during this pandemic? Students should establish and maintain a routine. They should try to eat meals at regular times, and put themselves on a sleep schedule to ensure they get enough rest. Also, it’s helpful to include a positive or fun activity in their schedule that they can look forward to daily or weekly. Schedule movements or exercises into their routine. Lastly, I encourage students to take breaks from social media periodically. Can you talk about your journey to becoming a counselor? I went to North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. When I first started as a freshman, my major was Elementary Education. I switched my major to Business and graduated with a degree in Marketing. After graduation, I started working at a bank for a few years. I found myself doing the same thing, day after day, and it wasn’t fulfilling at all. I eventually got the urge to work with children again. I enrolled in a career-switch program in Richmond, Virginia, for professionals who wanted to become teachers. It was on weekends, Friday evening and all day on Saturday. I would also volunteer at schools tutoring on the days I was off from the bank. Shortly after I finished that program, I moved to Maryland and taught fifth grade for two years. I taught middle school Science for a year. Then I transitioned into special education for a few years. Recently I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in counseling psychology to become a licensed counselor. What has your experience been like at Friendship Ideal? When I joined Friendship, I was wowed by the convocation experience—the whole production, the investment in students and staff. I was also drawn to this organization because it was started by an African-American male, Donald Hense. Friendship is a great organization to belong to. At my campus, Principal Speight invests a lot in his staff as well. When we return to school in the fall, he ensures we’re optimally ready to receive students. He takes several days to ensure our minds are in the right space. There’s a lot of team building and sharing of our experiences with each other, and afterward, we are a cohesive unit. After this, we move into the academic side, but he takes a few days to build us up as a family.