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In a year of darkness, school counselors are beacons of light for Maine students

With mental health issues being a primary focus for school counselors, Kim Raymond has gone above and beyond. She was named Maine's School Counselor of the year.

WINTERPORT, Maine — For Maine students like Tyler Thompson, senior year was something he was looking forward to. But his dream football season and school year turned into a nightmare.

“It’s definitely a lot of heartbreak all around," he said Friday. "Us seniors are experiencing this in real-time and we’re worried, are we going to have a regular graduation?"

The Brewer High School senior is open about his dealings with mental health. Like many kids in similar positions, playing sports was a way for Thompson to escape reality, even if it was for a few hours. 

“Football is a big outlet for me when I have those depression days or those anxiety days. I’m worried about one of those days where I lose that motivation and I’m in jeopardy of not graduating," he added.

The idea of a spring tackle football season was scrapped last month. So, Thompson and hundreds of other seniors will leave high school without a final game. Other seniors are leaving this chapter in their life without their final concert, musical, play, debate, or rehearsal.

Luckily, the support system at Brewer is strong. Thompson mentioned school counselors and teachers are more than willing to talk to students at any time of day to address their concerns.

School counselors across the state have seen their role change this year. Kimberly Raymond is the school counselor at Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport, an elementary school in RSU 22.

“I really love working with the young elementary students," Raymond said. “Because they still love learning and they love, they’re not afraid to be silly and have some fun when learning too.”

Whether it be remote learning struggles, limited activity opportunities outside of the classroom, or something else, Raymond has been trying to make her students feel connected with one another.

“I want them to learn how to recognize their feelings, manage their emotions, be able to understand you know, empathy and problem-solving skills," she said.

The hard work paid off for Raymond as she was named the 2021 Maine School Counselor of the Year, during National School Counseling Week. 

Credit: RSU 22

“This week is all about school counselors being able to show what we can do for the school and show how we advocate for our students," Raymond said. “I get to wake up every morning and to do a job that I love and really all I do is try to make the world a little bit better every day.”  

Being awarded a plaque, which was showed off in her Zoom interview, Raymond will attend a formal Gala in Washington, D.C. in the winter of 2022, as well as honored at the American School Counseling Conference in Austin, Texas in summer 2022.

“I feel like it's such a privilege that parents allow me to work with their students and work with them every day," Raymond added.

Unfourtnaley, her work, and the work of other counselors and mental health professions will not slow down as this pandemic continues. 

“I just want all students, no matter what age level to know that there is help out there. If [counselors aren't] sure how to help you, they can connect you with resources and that’s one of the things we do as school counselors also.”

School counselors like Raymond continue to be a beacon of light during these dark winter days.