Niagara school counselors-in-training celebrated School Counseling Week in 2023.

Students in Niagara University’s master’s degree program in school counseling will celebrate National School Counseling Week 2024, “School Counseling: Standards-Based, Student-Focused,” from Feb. 5–9, by participating in activities to thank and acknowledge school counselors for the work that they do. The national observance, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, is intended to focus public attention on the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. 

School counselors-in-training at Niagara are actively engaged in supporting PreK-12 students examine their abilities, strengths, interests, and talents; work in partnership with caregivers as they encounter the challenges of raising children in today's world; focus on positive ways to enhance students' development and success; and work with teachers and other educators to provide an educational system where students can realize their potential and set healthy, realistic, and optimistic aspirations for themselves.

“Niagara’s program prepares our graduates to assist PreK through 12th grade students in their academic, college or career, and personal and social development and achievement,” said Dr. Derron Hilts, assistant professor and coordinator of the school counseling program.

Gone are the days of building the master schedule, coordinating state exams, and other inappropriate activities for school counselors, he said. Niagara’s school counseling students are immersed and actively engaged in their respective school communities, delivering a range of services to students including individual and small group counseling and classroom lessons on topics spanning from transitions from middle to high school to anxiety and anger management.

“Since many of our graduate students recognize the importance of supporting students and families beyond the typical school day, our students are also involved in co-coordinating after-school programs, sports, and clubs,” Dr. Hilts added.

For example, second-year graduate student Ta-Shara Carter co-led the implementation of an after-school girls leadership group with fifth and sixth grade students from Harry F. Abate Elementary School in the Niagara Falls City School District. She is one of five NU students who obtained a $15,000 paid internship in the NFCSD as part of the district’s five-year, $3.5 million grant aimed at enhancing students’ mental health and well-being.

“We covered a range of topics with our students, including self-advocacy, being an effective role model, and promoting their own and others’ self-esteem,” said Carter, who is pursuing a school counseling career because she wants to be a role model for her 11-year-old son. “Education has always been important to me, particularly as an African American woman. I have witnessed firsthand the needs of a marginalized community and the positive difference that education and support can make. I want to be an advocate for equal educational opportunities and change within the societal view of minoritized students.”

Later this semester, the school counseling program will host guest speakers who will discuss topics including addressing absenteeism in schools and integrating hip-hop into school counseling practice to promote Black consciousness among Black boys.

“Taken collectively, our rigorous curriculum, coupled with the university’s Vincentian tradition, further enables our students to have a positive and sustained impact in their respective school communities, particularly with students from underserved and underrepresented populations,” said Dr. Hilts.

Niagara’s school counseling program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. It offers small class sizes that are typically held in the evenings, allowing students to remain employed during the day, and students have the option to complete the program on a full- or part-time basis.

The American School Counselor Association promotes PK-12 student success by expanding the image and influence of school counseling through leadership, advocacy, collaboration, and systemic change. ASCA helps school counselors guide their students toward academic achievement, career planning, and social/emotional development to help today’s students become tomorrow’s productive, contributing members of society. Founded in 1952, ASCA has a network of 51 state and territory associations and a membership of approximately 43,000