Ms. Holly Browning Steps Up as Lead Counselor

Photo courtesy of Ms. Holly Browning.

A change in the counseling department will take place for the 2017-2018 school year. Ms. Holly Browning, who served as an alpha counselor in the past, will now be working as the lead counselor.

“A lead counselor, in my mind, is not only a student advocate, but they’re the counselor advocate,” Ms. Browning said. “They’re the ones making sure the other counselors are getting the training they need, the help they need, the support.”

Though as a lead counselor she will no longer be managing around 400 students as the alpha counselors do, Ms. Browning will now be responsible for making sure all students receive the information they need from their counselors, as well as additional support.

“If [the counselors] are swamped or they’re busy during one-on-ones and they need somebody to check on a kid, that’ll be me, I’ll be filling in there,” Ms. Browning said. “I can sit and take the time to go through college applications, help them maybe identify colleges that could be a good fit for them, help them maybe look for scholarships; since I don’t have a caseload of 400 I can be that extra resource tool for everyone.”

She will also help with senior guidance, ranging from navigating Apply Texas in the beginning of the year to explaining how to send your final transcript to colleges at the end of the year.  

“It’s mostly just senior year guidance versus the ninth through 11th grade is more the alpha counselors,” Ms. Browning said.

With experience as a one-on-one alphabet counselor, Ms. Browning steps into this new role with goals of improving communication and relationships between students and counselors.

“A lot of times students feel like they need their parents to schedule an appointment or schedule a time but honestly just walk in,” Ms. Browning said. “They’re there before school, counselors don’t take lunch, we are in there during our lunches.”

Not only does Ms. Browning hope that students are aware of the availability of their counselors, she also hopes they know what kind of services they can provide. Even though counselors are often overlooked for responding only to academic issues, they are also able to provide social and emotional counseling, especially in unique school environment such as Westwood.

“Can we be their therapists? No, but can we be there when they need somebody to talk to and check in on them? Yes,” Ms Browning said. “I think that’s something kids could use a lot of if they just knew that the Westwood counselors are all trained in that.”

Another way Ms. Browning plans on fostering communication between counselors and students is through Remind 101, a messaging app in which students can receive texts and emails updates sent by their counselor.

“We’re gonna really try to advertise that more so I can use that more effectively this year, and y’all get more updates from us so you know if you should go check in with your counselors because it’s ACC [Austin Community College] day, or there’s a new scholarship on the website,” Ms. Browning said.

Ms. Browning has also worked throughout the summer to ensure that the school website is updated with the most recent and adequate information for students to access.

“I spent about a couple days really revamping our website and make it more user friendly versus just looking at everything like this is too much,” Ms. Browning said. “I’m hoping to make that more of a resource so kids feel like they can connect with their counselors, and that all the links on there work.”

With their goals defined for the upcoming school year, the counselors have years of experience on their side when working through ambitions together.

“I think the counseling team is awesome, we are a very unique team,” Ms. Browning said. “A lot of counselors leave and go from place to place, but the Westwood counselors stay, and I think that’s because we really care about the kids and the Westwood community a lot.”