Meredith HoytThis month for our alumni spotlight we checked in with Meredith Hoyt, '07. Meredith was in the first graduating class of OSU-Cascades' master's in counseling program. She is now the school counselor at Tumalo Community School which serves about 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
 
Q. Hi Meredith! How’s the school year going?

A. The school year is going great so far. It's hard to believe it's almost Christmas. It seems busier this year than past years.  Maybe that's because I finally know all of the things I want to do, and am feeling the pressure to do them all. We are also in the middle of implementing new academic and counseling curricula.

Q. Where has your career taken you since graduating the counseling program?

A. I graduated in 2007 and went to work for the Redmond School District in 2008. It has been an excellent opportunity and a wonderful place to work. This is my fourth year at Tumalo Community School. Before that I was at Redmond High School and at Vern Patrick Elementary. I am on the leadership committee at my school, the tri-county crisis response team and I was part of a district wide committee to adopt a new K-12 bullying prevention program over the summer. This year I am also a school counseling intern supervisor. It is nice having someone helping me, and also a meaningful experience trying to pass on what I have learned.
 
Q. How do you think OSU-Cascades prepared you for your role as school counselor?

A. I think that OSU-Cascades gave me a great foundation to start my career in counseling. My teachers were supportive, my classes were challenging and my experiences outside the classroom were meaningful. The OSU-Cascades community is a big part of my professional community. Many of the people I went to school with are now part of the professional counseling field and I get to interact with them on a regular basis. It's fun to remember when we went to school together, and see how far we've come.
 
Q. Can you share a specific best practice, method or strategy you learned at OSU-Cascades that you use more than you thought you would?
    
A. A best practice that I try keep in the forefront of my mind is to always think about what is in the best interest of the student or child. This seems logical but some situations can become complicated in determining what is best for all parties involved—the parents, teacher, administration often have needs or wants—but in the end I always ask myself what is best for the child? and then I advocate for that.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about being a counselor? The most challenging?

A. My favorite thing about being a counselor is getting to hang out with kids and the relationships I form with my students. The most challenging part of being a counselor is the kids you "bring home at night." The kids you worry about when you are falling asleep at night because you know they are hungry or cold or in an unsafe situation.

Q. Why are school counselors so essential to a school community?

A. Sometimes people ask me, "What does an elementary school counselor do?" My answer is always "What doesn't a school counselor do?" School counselors are essential to a school community in many ways. We implement a comprehensive school guidance program which includes social skills, personal safety and anti-bullying curriculum to all students. We help students to deal with immediate emotional and physical needs so that they can access their education. We run small groups for students in need of more help with social skills, anger management, divorce concerns and grief. We deal with students in crisis or that have safety concerns. We work with students that need additional support both emotionally, socially and behaviorally. We help teachers, parents and the administration.