By Benjamin Flowers
The Belize School Counsellors Association this week launched its first ever counsellors’ conference, a week-long seminar for the professional development of counsellors.
The conference started on Monday with an opening ceremony held at the Institute for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ITVET) compound in Belize City.
The conference is being held under the theme “The 21st Century Belizean School Counsellor: Unleashing Your Potential!”
The principal facilitators are both Belizeans: Dr. Shirlene Smith-Augustine of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Dr. Denise Lenares-Solomon of Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia.
Dr. Shirlene told The Reporter that an important part of being a school counsellor is the role of advocacy for the students.
“We as counsellors are the voice of our children,” Augustine said. “Our job is to ensure that our kids can access not only the services we provide but also a quality of education no matter their walk of life.”
She added that data plays a big role in assessing the effectiveness of counselling, such as showing how school counsellors have positively affected student’s drop out rates, absences from school and even behavioural problems.
The conference will feature topics such as starting a comprehensive school counselling program, peer helping program start-up, developing a crisis plan for schools, and school counsellor self-care.
Present at the opening ceremony was Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, David Leacock, who emphasized the need for and the role of school counsellors.
The Belize School Counsellor Association (BSCA) was formally established in October, 2012, with current President Elizabeth Goff as one of the founding members.
The association’s mission is to represent, support, and develop professional school counsellors in Belize and to encourage efficient delivery of counselling services at educational institutions.