The Presentation High School Counseling Department is committed to helping students create and maintain a well-balanced curricular and co-curricular profile that allows them to reach their goals both academically and personally.
There are several counseling programs available on campus, including personal counseling, academic monitoring, peer tutoring, mentoring, college counseling, career counseling and Parent Counseling Information Nights.
Each class level is assigned to a personal counselor with master's-level training. The counselor remains with that class level in order to facilitate a strong long-term counseling relationship with students. Counselors initiate appointments with each student on their caseload a minimum of once per semester in grades 9-12.
Counselors are available to students each day as needed. Counselors maintain contact with parents when appropriate and are also available to mentors and all other faculty members who have concerns about individual students.
Faith and Mental Health
by MaryLynne Rodriguez
I am privileged to work at a Catholic School in my role as a counselor for high school students. I am able to bring the topic of faith into difficult conversations and open the door to discussing how their personal beliefs may impact the way they reflect upon a challenging situation. Oftentimes, when students are dealing with the loss of a loved one, faith is the one aspect that can provide a source of comfort, a spark of light in their time of darkness. This notion does indeed extend beyond loss and into the daily lives of our student’s mental health. Mental Health encompasses the psychological, social, and emotional well being of an individual. Not to be confused with mental illness, mental health is something every human being has, that can affect their relationships and interactions, how they deal with stress, and their decision making process. Talking about mental health can be considered taboo for some, but reducing the stigma surrounding how we care for ourselves can result in a community who prioritizes healthy coping skills and support for those whose mental health is declining. According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “As we learn more and more about the connections between the mind and body, it becomes clear that spirituality, religion and faith can help some individuals live well with mental health conditions. Some individuals and families turn to faith in times of crisis to help in their recovery while others find that spiritual practices help them continue to manage their mental health.” Presentation is fortunate to have a Campus Ministry office, who welcomes students of all faiths to participate in learning more about their faith. Students from Catholic, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Agnostic, Sikh, and Budhist faith traditions are currently participating in our Peer Ministry program, according to Mrs. Lisa Brunolli, Director of Campus Ministry. When asked about the connection between faith and mental health, Mrs. Brunolli shares that students and adults alike rarely allow themselves the time to stop and step out of the hamster wheel we all find ourselves on. An active faith life allows that time to pause, reflect, and get in tune with yourself, God, and others. Faith invites you to get in touch with your core, and to understand that there are things greater than ourselves at play. Spirituality and faith also welcome us to find grace within, to acknowledge our imperfections, and to be at peace with that, as we do not have all the answers. Today’s teens often find themselves busy with academic work, co-curriculars, their social life, and family obligations. It may even feel like groundhog day for some, going to bed, just to wake up and run on the treadmill once again. Learning more about one’s faith tradition’s contemplative practices may be a good first step in reclaiming one’s day, as it promotes relaxation through a meditative ritual, according to NAMI. Setting aside a few minutes a day to reconnect with God, the people, and the activities that promote gratitude and provide joy are of benefit. Others may enjoy attending their place of worship, setting aside time during their week to sit in the solace of quietness, and to realize that hope, love, connection, and joy are all around. Taking a moment to connect with one’s faith just might make the difference, and not just during times of personal crisis, but in the everyday life that we have been given.
NAMI: Faith & Spirituality
by MaryLynne Rodriguez
While I struggled with the title of this particular article, I chose to leave it intact as it captures the essence of what I'm hearing from our students. We've all heard that the average growing human should get an average of 8-10 hours of sleep each day, according to Judith Owens, a top pediatric researcher on sleep. And to many of you, that goal seems unattainable. However, this is one battle I am going to continue to approach with the students I see as their Class Level Counselor.
The conversation typically begins simply enough, “what time do you typically get to bed each evening?” From there, responses can vary, from knowing smiles to blank stares. On average, many students I have met with make their bedtime a priority with more than I had expected to say “10:30-11:00 p.m.” However, there are some students whose sleep habits are concerning, often leading to no more than 4-5 hours per night. Some of the unhealthy sleep habits are contributing to unhealthy coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with their academics and everyday stressors facing teens today. Often, teens feel that this negative cycle cannot be changed and that they have no sense of control in developing better sleep habits.
Too much homework = less sleep. I have found that this is not necessarily the case and that there are multiple factors at play. From the obvious tech obsessions with social media and Netflix/YouTube to the multitude of activities our students involve themselves in, there is more contributing to unhealthy sleep schedule beyond homework. The feeling that you need to do it all to get into “Best College A” is simply incorrect. I will leave it to my esteemed colleagues in College Counseling to work with your students on rewriting their narratives regarding this common misconception.
According to William Stixrud and Ned Johnson, “without sleep, a vicious cycle takes place. Sleep deprivation is a form of chronic stress, can trigger anxiety and mood disorders in children who are already vulnerable to getting them, has physical implications, and has an impact on emotional control which is dramatically impaired.” Is it a wonder that this negative cycle poses as a “no way out” scenario for our students?
What can we do?
Chipping away at this issue that several of my students face begins with identifying what control they have over the matter. I recommend creating an evening routine with your daughter. Begin by listing out the activities after school hours she participates in, as well as the average number of minutes/hours it takes to complete each of her courses’ homework assignments. From there, scheduling in a similar time each evening to begin a bedtime routine is essential.
Click here for Tips for Making & Following a Study Schedule
It may take a few weeks to train the body to tire by 11:00 p.m. every evening if she is accustomed to staying awake until midnight, so there are a few items at no cost to inexpensive that you can use as sleep aides to establish a nightly routine she will look forward to, some ideas include:
Holiday breaks are a wonderful time to reset the internal clock, get caught up on long-term assignments, and identify priorities for the upcoming semester. Completing homework the day it is assigned is key in students that can maintain a healthy bedtime. The pressure of completing an assignment or studying for a test the night before is no longer present if their time is managed correctly. I fully recognize that the student is the source of change, and no matter what amount of support you provide to her in maintaining a schedule, as a young adult, she has to be willing to make the change herself. While we cannot control the outside pressures teens face today; we can help them identify ways to take back their control and feel empowered by the way they choose to spend and schedule their time.
by Nancy Taylor and MaryLynne Rodriguez
Vaping among teens has taken center stage in national media and here at Presentation we are no exception. We are aware that there are Pres students who are vaping - and more concerning, we are aware that they are vaping on campus - in the bathrooms, locker rooms and even in the classrooms. This is concerning on several levels - most specifically for our student’s health and development.
While we are aware this is not an issue unique to Presentation High School, we have been in conversation with other local area high schools regarding the uptick in student reports that this is occurring during the school day. “Nearly a third of 13-to-18-year-olds who responded to a separate survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal with research firm Mercury Analytics said they currently vape.
Click here for the Wall Street Journal article, Youth Vaping Has Soared in 2018
What Can Parents Do?
According to Partnership for Drug Free Kids, make it clear to your daughter that you don’t approve of them vaping or using e-cigarettes, no matter what.
If you think your daughter is vaping, take a deep breath and set yourself up for success by creating a safe, open and comfortable space to start talking with your son or daughter. As angry or frustrated as you feel, keep reminding yourself to speak and listen from a place of love, support and concern. Explain to them that young people who use THC or nicotine products in any form, including e-cigarettes or vaporizers, are uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects. Because these substances affect the development of the brain’s reward system, continued use can lead to addiction (the likelihood of addiction increases considerably for those who start young), as well as other health problems. You want your child to be as healthy as possible. Find out why vaping might be attractive to your son or daughter, and work with him or her to replace it with a healthier behavior.”
Click here to for the article, Teen Vaping Trend - What Parents Need to Know
While we understand it may be difficult to imagine your daughter partaking in such an risky activity, the conversation is still important to have, as she most likely will be in contact with a peer whether it be in high school or college that will be vaping. Please refer to this helpful tip sheet by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist you in preparing for a conversation with your daughter, and provide you with factual information to reinforce your concerns.
Click here for the brochure, Talk with Your Teens About E-cigarettes: a Tip Sheet for Parents
Living with Anxiety
by MaryLynne Rodriguez
The seeds of anxiety lie dormant in all of us as human beings until called upon to keep us on task, safe, and grounded. Normalizing this is essential as we most likely have all felt anxiety in our lives, for some a longer duration, and others, completely dependent upon the situation. Anxiety does serve a purpose in each of our lives, from providing that extra push to study for a quiz, to being keenly alert when driving in a storm on the freeway. For adults, a career shift, change in marital status, or the many aspects of parenthood can be common triggers. For students, the most common events that can stir an anxious feeling or response often involve a classroom presentation, taking a test (low and high stakes), their grades, and the amount of time that needs to be shared between academics, extracurriculars, etc.. While there are bigger issues looming and related, like constant comparisons to their peers and college admissions, the daily occurrences that can trigger anxiety can be situations students have little to no control over. Points are awarded for your active participation, grades are received for your oral presentation, etc. This can become quite scary for anyone, and yes, a “flight or fight” response may occur; but for most, it results in butterflies in the stomach, or embarrassment in the moment, which quickly dissipates once the perceived threat is gone. When this anxiety starts to get in the way of day to day life and expectations, the thought of butterflies and embarrassment can give way to an absence the day of the test or presentation or a visit to the attendance office for issues related to breathing, dizziness, or physical pain. The “fight or flight” response takes over, and the thought of getting a “C-” on today’s quiz which could result in a lower grade in the class, which could inhibit the perceived ability to get into college can very quickly and suddenly paralyze students to the point that the perceived fear completely washes away any rational thinking on the matter.
When anxiety is affecting a student's ability to participate in their day to day life, if not acknowledged and treated, can become debilitating for some. While we all at some point in time in our lives experience anxiety which can serve to keep us safe and our well being intact, heightened anxiety can make the daily activities related to education feel threatening. Having a conversation with your daughter and working to determine the sources of her anxiety is a good start. There are many resources including literature, seminars, and your school counselor which can provide helpful tools to begin effectively dealing with anxiety that becomes overwhelming. The next best course of action is to be seen by a pediatrician to rule out any medical causes and to discuss the benefits of beginning therapy to determine root causes and develop healthy coping strategies, which are lifelong tools to deal with life’s next challenges that may arise.