School Counselor stands out

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Posted Wed, Apr 6, 2011

Sandy Austin: Colorado High School Counselor of the Year

Three years ago Green Mountain High School counselor Sandy Austin was named Colorado High School Counselor of the Year by the Colorado School Counselor Association (CSCA). Last month, three years later, Austin was again recognized, this time on a national level, being named one of the top 10 school counselors in the nation by the American School Counselor Association. The ASCA selected Austin from more than 100,000 counselors.

Austin, a graduate of Green Mountain in Lakewood, began her career in education as a physical education teacher before landing a counselor position at the former Ranum High School. After a year at Ranum, Austin accepted a job as a counselor at Green Mountain.
Austin’s transition to Green Mountain coincided with a string of tragedy at the school.
“A few years ago we had several suicides within eight months,” Austin said. “As a counselor I was really looking at the school to see where students were falling through the cracks and what I started noticing is there was five categories of students falling through the cracks.”

Austin said the five categories were; new students entering the school during a semester, students who are hospitalized, students who are out because of an extended illness for five or more days, students who lose a loved one and students who have been affected by the loss of another student.

“We knew, at Green Mountain, what a death of a student did to a school and how it impacted it,” Austin said. “So we knew there was a need there, and that was a way we could reach out, so we decided to start a club to address those five different areas.”

That club would become known as the “Believe It Or Not, I Care” (B.I.O.N.I.C.) team. Austin accredits a motivational speaker she heard in high school who encouraged the student to live “B.I.O.N.I.C.” as the inspiration behind the name.
B.I.O.N.I.C. is divided into five teams to target the five categories of at risk students; the new student team, extended illness team, school tragedy team, loss team, and hospitalization team.

“(B.I.O.N.I.C.) is an amazing group of young people who give back to the community,” said Green Mountain principal Barb Goings. “Actually, they don’t just service our community; I should say they service families and students around the state of Colorado as well as the country.”

Austin says the team’s mission as an organization is designed to help students, students’ families and staff through challenging times. B.I.O.N.I.C.’s actions have reinforced this mission, whether it’s the loss team weaving through the streets of Lakewood in a 10 car caravan to deliver a pie to a student who recently experienced loss, or the new student team welcoming a new student with a candy bar, a card and a smile. “We’re just about letting people know that we care,” student Brooke Weeter said.

In the six years since the creation of the team, Austin said, it has grown from two to more than 150 members. The program has even taken on at more than 400 schools across the globe.

Much of Austin’s recognition has been for her efforts with the B.I.O.N.I.C. team. However, Austin said it’s really the kids who care and have so much compassion for others who really deserve to be recognized.

B.I.O.N.I.C. team goals
* To make new students feel welcome
*To reach out to students with extended illnesses/health conditions.
* To reach out to hospitalized students
* To reach out to students and their families and staff that experience the death of a loved one
*To reach out to other schools that experience tragedies

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One Response to “School Counselor stands out”

  1. Heather M. Smith Says:

    This looks like a really great program. More schools should offer something like this!

    Reply

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