Sara Travis, Jenni Owen and Kelly Powers all share something in common — they have a passion for helping students in local schools. In honor of National School Counseling Week, which begins Monday, the three counselors reflect on the different paths that led each of them to this opportunity to serve students in a unique way.
Sara Travis started her educational career as a teacher at Cravens Elementary School.
Travis, who completed her undergraduate work at WKU, taught a year in Tennessee before she moved to Kentucky. At the time, it was a requirement for Kentucky teachers to earn their master’s degree so she re-enrolled at WKU to start her graduate work in counseling.
“I knew if I had to go back for my master’s degree, I should do something I’m interested in. I never thought that I would use it because counseling positions don’t open up very often,” Travis said.
After eleven years in the classroom, she took a counseling position at Owensboro Middle School where she still serves today. Travis is one of three counselors and is assigned to the 8th grade. Although there are some extra roles outside one-on-one time with students such as test coordinating and planning, her favorite role is meeting with students.
“It’s great because it’s something new every day,” Travis said. “I enjoy it when I get to talk to the kids.”
Jenni Owen’s experience didn’t start in the classroom. She earned her masters in social work at the University of Louisville and earned her school social work certification at the University of Kentucky.
“I was working for an outside agency and I had a lot of kids at Foust that I served. I started to get to know the staff members there and when the position became open, I jumped on it,” Owen said. “I didn’t even know I could work in a school at first. Most people go the education route.”
Owen, who has 20 years of experience as a social worker, has worked at the Mary Kendall Home, River Valley Behavioral Health, and Lighthouse Counseling, where she still serves part-time. Foust is one of the only schools in the city and county that hires social workers.
“I enjoy building relationships with students. That’s my priority. I want them to know me so they feel like they have a safe place if they need to talk about anything,” Owen said.
Kelly Powers taught English and Humanities at Daviess County High School before becoming a guidance counselor at the Owensboro 5-6 Center. Six years later, she came back to DCHS where she currently serves as a guidance counselor.
With 15 years of experience in this field, her passion has not faded. According to her, before even becoming a teacher, she knew this would be the career path for her.
“I wanted to be a counselor before I wanted to be a teacher,” Powers said. I loved the guidance counselor, Jan Young at Apollo. When I was in high school, I already knew by watching her. She was the student council sponsor and I was involved with that; I thought she was fun and helpful. That was appealing to me.”
Powers says she enjoys teaching and the relationship part of it. Most teachers fall in love with their subject and became a teacher, but Powers sees herself as the opposite.
“I fell in love with the kids first and wanted to be with them,” Powers said. “I thought ‘I want to be a counselor. What does it take to get there?’ At the time, you had to be a teacher first.”
Recently, Powers has started working with the senior class as they prepare for college and career. Through this work, she says she is learning about helping students prepare for their future. Working closely with admissions counselors, Powers assists students with scholarship applications, essays, and test preps for the ACT and SAT.
“I tell the students that there are merit-based scholarships out there. If they have a 3.7 GPA for example, and they work their way up to 3.8, reward money could jump $4,000 a year. I tell them ‘This is why you should care and how to do it.’ It has been really enjoyable working in the senior counselor role,” Powers said.
A favorite aspect of the job for Powers is helping students. According to her, sometimes that looks like intervening with a kid who is depressed and sometimes it looks like helping someone select dual credit classes.
“The kids I get to know make it really meaningful and rewarding,” Powers said.