Gainesville had a voice in Washington, D.C., last week to talk about the importance of helping minority students transition between high school and higher education.
Kay Holleman, a counselor at Gainesville High School, took the offer “with honor” when she was asked to speak before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“There were seven of us there for the school counseling portion, and it was really exciting to be there, talking in front of everyone,” Holleman said Monday.
“I talked about how we reach out to the Hispanic families, use individual counseling and take students to college fairs.”
The committee gave each presenter four to eight minutes to talk and then asked questions about the role of career counseling and the difficulty with legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act.
“I told them how we try to educate students and parents about the importance of getting a high school diploma and then moving on to some postsecondary option, whether it’s a technical school, two-year school, four-year school or apprenticeship,” she said.
“It’s really important to choose something for after high school, and I explained how we help with that.”
Gainesville High School was one of eight schools in 2008 to pilot Georgia’s Apply to College Week, which encourages teachers and counselors to carve time out of the daily school schedule to help seniors apply for college online.
East Hall and Chestatee high schools joined the initiative in 2009.
Holleman explained to the committee the difficulty of tracking minority students with Annual Yearly Progress and No Child Left Behind statistics, especially when many families move between freshman and senior years of high school.
“They’re considered dropouts, but it’s really hard to keep track of where those ninth-graders are now,” she said.
“But I did explain that we have a 97 percent graduation rate of the senior class from the beginning to the end of the year.”
Holleman, a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the American School Counselor Association, was contacted when the two groups decided to work together to convince Senate members of the need for more school counselors across the nation.
Holleman said she was asked to continue working with the partnership, and she may be contacted for more briefings before the Senate. With a background in private schools, Holleman said she “sees the real need for public schools to get involved and assertive with career counseling.”
“The fewer students we have per counselor, the more programs we can do for the individual, and some of these kids have a lot of needs,” Holleman said. “We want to get the Senate to see the need for more counselors and that it’s worth the money.”