#49 A Game Changer – Career Counseling in High School Transcript


Welcome to College and Career Clarity. This week, we have Vicki Weisbrod on with us. She is a school and college counselor at Bishop Fenwick High School. Bishop Fenwick is a parochial high school in the greater Cincinnati and greater Dayton, Ohio areas. It’s smack dab right in the middle.


Vicki is married to a high school teacher and they are parents to three now, young adult children. So she has recently gone through all things, college and career, not only professionally, but also as a parent. Welcome. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, and listening to the intro. I’m tired. I bet, I bet it. When we’re recording this, you just came off winter break and already worn out.


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So tell us a little bit about your role as both a school and a college counselor. You wear two hats and there is a difference between those two roles. I want to hear a little bit about what your role is at Bishop. Okay. So I am starting my 15th year. This fall as a school counselor at Fenwick, the role has changed greatly.


In those past 14 years, I started very much a reactive counselor taking issues, concerns as they came and over the past, really last 10 years really became more programming. As a school counselor, I’m responsible really more for the social, emotional, transitional part of high school, both in and out. And the academic piece, of course, obviously at a college prep high school, as a college counselor, it’s finding the right fit.


We are a school where 98% have some sort of post-secondary education. So college planning is a big piece, a big piece of what. Yeah,


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I know you guys have specific meetings with the students and the families throughout their journey through Fenwick to that end of trying to plan what comes after graduation, right?


What does that look like? Well, and that’s what has really evolved beautifully in the last four years specifically, we started with two counselors. We are alphabetic. We stay with the students all four years. There are a lot of schools that will split between a school counselor and a college counselor.


So, because the focus can be so different, but because the relationship is such a big part of the whole experience, we stay with the kids from start to finish. So, that requires us to be experts in everything which can be a little bit. So our population is usually around five 50, so there were always two counselors for the population.


Four years ago, we added a third so that we could offer more services. So we’re really lucky. We have a small caseload under 200, which is a dream for us. Yeah, we are definitely dreamy and we have the support, so it’s great. So as a result, there’s a lot of interaction. We see the kids a lot. We, in their freshman year, we’ll see them.


We figured 20 times they’ll see a counselor, 20 times over the course of their freshman year, which helps with the transition. We meet with them individually, at least. Proactively, and then reactively as much as they need to. We have a class that is a part, partly collaboration, and once every other week, we go in with some sort of curricular issue and Fenwick.


We have what are called the Falcons. So we have what are called Flocka blocks in our flocks grade level group. We get to meet with each grade level on a rotating basis. So freshmen, sophomore, junior seniors on a rotating basis throughout the whole school year. So we do see the kids a lot to address the academic, social, emotional college, and now career aspects of high school, wherever they are in their.


Super intentional. And,


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And you mentioned, and now career, because that’s something that you guys have added, and I know you were integral to Fenwick making a decision to add more, do better, fill some gaps. Recently, as you know, I have a Facebook community of parents where we discuss things all college and career related called Launch Career Clarity.


And I recently polled them, knowing I was going to talk to you, and that you have such a great role at a school. And I said, how would you rate how your school’s doing on the college major in career piece of what they provide? Are they excellent? Are they good? And they could use improvement or are they unacceptable?


Overwhelmingly the parents chose unacceptable, and I know it doesn’t have to be that way. And I know you were really spearheading for lack of is probably actually the right word. The change that happened at Fenwick about four years ago. What did your team, you and Jean and Sabrina work with you or other counselors?


What did you feel was missing or what was the gap for both the families and you all as, as the college count. Time is a huge piece of it. I think most counselors, I would, I would hope they were to tell the Fenwick families on that survey, even though a couple of years ago, they would say that very same thing.


We weren’t, we realized that that was a piece of our puzzle that was lacking. I wouldn’t say that it was absent, but we were just a stop gap measure. Leaving it to the parents to figure that part out. We knew we were part of a college prep high school. We knew that we had to get them to that point and help them.


I feel like we do and have done a really good job of helping kids find the best fit academically, emotionally, socially, and all of those pieces of the puzzle for picking a. We do our research with the college admissions and all of that. But as far as what they did when they got there, I mean, we were kind of just giving them a few ideas and sending them on their way.


And part of that was time that you really have to be able to devote time to sometimes. Financial resources to make this happen. So you, you you’re, you’re busy putting out fires or trying to do what is deemed most important, hoping that that piece just falls into place. And so while as we started to follow the ASCA model of counseling and, and try to do some very, like I said, intentional and proactive counseling, we realized that that was a piece.


We’re not experts. We, we’re, especially those of us who’ve always been in education. I don’t know what other people do in their jobs. I can’t all we’ve had to be able to base anything off of academics. And so, and their academic aptitude. Well, and to your point, you’re already wearing how many. You can’t be an expert at all things.


Right. Right, right. And so, so if for us, it would be through Naviance, which is a platform that we would use for college counseling. They had a great tool and then we’d gotten to score, which we really like, and they have a great tool. So it’s just using the tools that were out there. Giving it to the kids as an activity and hoping for the best, having a few conversations and hoping that the parents took over at home to continue there.


There are always a few kids that really want to dig in, but it just wasn’t feasible. And we knew that, and I always felt like that was just missing, but we’re not experts because we’re experts in other things. So when we found it, so long you found us well, we found each other well, we’ve known each other for a long time.


That’s right. So as I was developing my college major and career coaching program,


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actually, it was really as a mom first. So you were not only seeing missing pieces from the aspect of a school counselor. You were also experiencing that as a mom. Right. And that’s where it started. My kids. I have three children and they attended two different high schools, also private high schools in the Cincinnati area, magnificent schools.


Wonderful job, definitely wonderful education, but the same thing was lacking there. It was left to us. It was left to us as parents to have those conversations. And I remember this as a student, myself, and then as a parent, I feel like we hone in on. Where our kids are good academically, but yet a math kid, my dad, you have to build engineers new.


That’s not my personality kind of thing. So I feel like that’s what we do as parents. And with our limited view, we’re all in education. So we don’t have any ideas about other careers that our kids might be good at. They both did these same types of surveys. We really didn’t talk about it. And where the Birkman kind of came to light.


This was your new baby and you were telling us about it. And, and I thought, oh, I’ve got a kid that really should do this. And I’ll never forget. She took the Birkman. We’d had conversations at home. She’s very creative. We always thought she would go down the line of graphic design or something creative, but yet she had this passion for kids.


And I remember she took the Birkman and you interviewed her. And I remember you saying. Tell me about your being in education and you, she said my parents complain all the time about education. I can’t go into education, but yet she was overwhelming in education and we explained it. Wasn’t the role of education.


It wasn’t the teacher. Wasn’t the counselor. Well, this is, or coworkers are all the elements of any job. And lo and behold, she went into education. She graduated, she started her first job as a teacher, which is exactly where she should be. So for her, it confirmed kind of, it validated what she was feeling on paper and everything.


And I’ve watched that a bunch now as a counselor, I’ve watched that. Because Emma really, she had this inkling about, I wonder about teaching, but then all three of you were sort of like, eh, nah, nah. But once we looked at her wiring and her values and we had curated some great conversation around that, we found alignment and I’m so thrilled for Emma.


I love that for her, teach teacher talk all the time at her house. Oh, that’s fun. But then again, we were looking at what her, what we thought were her strengths and said, no, we, you, you have Linda for your kid and you, you think you see them where they should be, but they don’t tell you everything. And mine talk a lot.


So that’s what I really liked about the Birkman. It just, it sifts through. It works really well. You’re a lucky mom. If you’re, if you had teenagers that talked a lot, so many are so envious of that, not to say, okay, let me be clear. Let me be clear.


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So we had this experience where you actually came to me as a mom.


And I’ll let you sort of tell the story about the change that took place four years ago in what, how you guys now as a school, as three college counselors, when you have the college counselor hat on how you approach college planning at Fenwick. Cause I think you guys are doing a fantastic job. I just, I’ll never forget sitting in your office area.


And you were explaining about this Birkman, which I had never heard of. And Jeanie Horn was with me. And I remember looking at her and saying, well, we have to do this. We have to do this for all of our students. They need. We need this for them. And I’m like, we can’t afford this, so we’re not going to do this.


So then we brought it to the administration and talked about it and we, and we encouraged kids to go on their own a lot. We would do our, continue to do our surveys here at school and, and have those conversations. But when I, when we would get a kid that was really kind of lost, we would beg and plead for them to come to leap and at the time and, and, and get the Birkman on there.


And then with a wonderful development director and an amazing donor came along and said, I really want to invest in counseling and how can I help? And we’re like, Birkman, we want the Birkman. And so we were able to, oh, has it been four years now? I think it’s been four years. Yeah. We’ve given it to our sophomores at the end of sophomore year.


Cause that’s when they’re, most of them are around 16. And all of a sudden, now we just have this tool that has changed the conversation. It helps with picking classes. It helps with picking organizations to get involved in it. It just, it just opened doors that we had never opened it. It changed the conversation.


I think that’s the best that I could, that I could say. So we’ve done that now for several years, and we’re not Birkman people, but we can read the reports enough to make sense of the big pool. But then the kids who still felt they needed a lot more guidance than we would send them to you for additional clarity.


So, and that’s where we are now. Right? Right. We are now changing it up altogether this year. Changing it up again. So you guys are the first school that I’ve brought my Launch Career Clarity, five module course to help them. Not only just get a report that is the Birkman which. And we should say the Birkman is a personality assessment that we use, but it really, the clarity comes out of the exercises, the conversation and the collaboration that we now have in a course.


And we’re rolling it out too. All of the Fenwick students, so everybody will be benefiting. And I would imagine if I’m in your shoes, which I started in the classroom many, many moons ago, I won’t age myself completely. And at that time wanting to be more effective, like


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how do you feel having the power of not only the Birkman results, but the coaching that goes along with it and the conversations and being able to.


Find the alignment with activities and courses that they select. How has it made you and Jean and Sabrina more effective in your jobs? Like does it, has it taken pressure off? Does it, how does it show up? I think it’s just crazy to think that we would be. Career coaches on top of what we do. It’s just, and then I’m sure there are wonderful school counselors who are fantastic at that.


But for us specifically, we just don’t have the breadth of knowledge to bring it in. So it does take a lot of pressure. It does take a lot of pressure and having this report, and it’s an easy to use report and it it’s. It gives him a picture. I don’t know. I used the analogy with students a lot that I feel like when I, when I start with him freshman year there, this big jigsaw puzzle, I, it, it feels that way you dump out the pieces freshman year and already started turning them over.


And then, and I feel like it just, and, and I definitely, I have a pair of rosy colored glasses. I’m an eternal optimist, but. The pieces do just fall together. And we always just hoped that that career piece happened after they were gone. But I think that. Now that we’ve got this tool that can, they can narrow their focus and, and, and ideally help them pick a better college the first time and a major the first time and not waste years or waste money or waste time or whatever, and hit the ground.


Right. It does feel like a bit of a game changer. I think we knew we couldn’t do it, but this tool in this program, I’m really excited about the class because I think what happens is families are busy and they, you like, here’s this great tool. And then they got to come up with time to do it. So now that we’ve found a way to bring it, this block that we have a lot of times it’s a study hall here or there.


But we’re giving them, we’re etching out some time in the day, which tells them that it’s important. And then it also gives them the time to do it so that they can do the exploration and maybe get something out of it. I won’t get a hundred percent, but man, they’re going to be definitely more focused. Um, I’m missing them.


Well, it’s the whole, you can lead the horse to water, right? I have watched you as a school, be so intentional with the choices that you’ve made, that I think it’s just a game changer for students and it puts them on. It increases the odds that they’re on an excellent trajectory coming out of high school.


Everything you read so much now that maybe college isn’t for everyone. And I think that I’ve had a lot of conversations as a result of this Birkman that I may not have had before. They, especially in a culture like ours, we’re college prep, high school, where the majority of kids go. So they kind of peer pressure each other into thinking that that’s where they should be.


And the reality is, it is not supposed to be that way. So this I don’t, I don’t know that this report necessarily gives them permission, but it definitely lets them either think about things or. Like I said the validation or whatever, that there are different paths, but opens up conversation around. There’s so many different ways that this can look, there are associate degree careers that make far more than some bachelor degree, careers and income is just one part of the alignment piece that we look for for what a person wants income wise.


So this is only one piece of the jigsaw puzzle as you put it.


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I want to talk about your decision to put this in the past four years, we’ve done it at the end of the sophomore year. We’re talking about maybe moving it right to the beginning of the junior year. Is there a, in your estimation? I know how I answer this, but I want to hear from somebody who’s boots on the ground, in a school every day with hundreds of kids, what do you feel like?


Is there a too early adjustment? And where does it start to get like, oh, we’re, we’re kinda like, oh, a little behind here. I’m glad we’re moving it to junior year. I do think, cause we’ve, we’ve had this conversation over the years. I think there are a lot of parents. That want to start the journey a little sooner asking the questions really early, but there are a decent chunk of students that kind of just want to do high school.


That’s the rush I’m just wanting to do. High school is overwhelming me. And so I, I think at the beginning of junior year, there’s a seriousness that seems to start to settle in. And that’s where we focus on testing. If that still happens a little bit more you’re halfway there. It feels like the right time to see.


Being more intentional with what’s happened after the first couple of years, there’s still high school that is always seen. And junior year is still somewhat senior year, I think would be too late, but I think it would be great to do it then. And then as counselors, I feel it’s my responsibility to then meet the student where they are with the conversation.


I had a student come in today and he’s like, I don’t want to talk about college. Second semester of my junior year, let’s talk about it. And it’s about the time that we sit down and do it, but I pulled up his Birkman that he had from last year. And we talked about it and, and watching his face, the things that he was thinking, and he’d already seen this report sophomore year.


You just didn’t, it wasn’t important to him then. Right. It’s important to him now. So I think our role in this is taking when it’s important and revisiting that, but it was funny. He was telling. That’s what I was thinking. It was, it was awesome to watch it. And I think that’s what, what this whole process does is it, it gives them permission to, because it tells them what they want to do.


And it’s what they may be thinking. But they may not have said the words. Right. You asked me about families. I think this process does a service to the family. It may not be, it could be painful at times because the conversation can be tough. But sometimes I think we have wonderful kids who want to please and do right by their families and may not necessarily want to speak up or whatever.


So, yeah, that’s a good job. It gives them something on paper to back what they were thinking all along and watching the light bulbs go off on like jobs like that. Right. Yeah. So fascinating. It’s just kind of, it feels like it’s that last missing piece of the puzzle that we just get to go put it in there.


It’s so exciting. It really is.


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So obviously the vast majority of the listeners of my podcast are not going to have the opportunity to go to Fenwick high school as a, both a mom. And a college counselor working with hundreds and hundreds of students over the years. What actionable advice would you give to a family of a sophomore, junior, senior in high school who doesn’t have resources like this at their school and what are some things that they can do?


Even so, what is the right order to do them as they’re planning? What comes after high school? It’s a big question. It is a big question. It’s so hard within families because there’s agendas involved in what you want for your kids versus what they might want for themselves, et cetera, having three kids.


I don’t know that I would say, okay guys, first part of junior year, let’s go. It’s Berkman time for them necessarily as their mom, I probably would see where they are in. Any inkling of wanting to talk about it, then I would probably jump on the opportunity to do this. And all three of my kids have taken the Birkman for that very reason.


So some have listened to me from the conversations and others don’t learn it. That’s why you said you can lead the horse there, but there’s still gonna be some that are gonna do it their own way, but then come back later and go, oh, Yeah, you were right. So we’ll, we’ll get there someday. Well, I had an interesting conversation with a mom two days ago and she is a sophomore who just went through the launch course and they decided to do it as a sophomore with me because they were ready.


She’s a high achieving student. She wanted, they were ready. So this, is that listening to your child, right? Who are ready? Yeah. Some seniors who still aren’t ready. So, yeah. Right. Well, and she was, she also was asking me to like, really what, what comes next? So what should I be doing? And I have a kid who overthinks and do you have strategies for me and helping her move along?


And I did say to that, mom, If you’re getting ready to fund college, it’s well within your parenting, right? To make it a conversation, not a dictator, but Hey, here’s the timeline we’re looking at. And if dad and I are going to invest in college, then here are some benchmarks we’re going to need you. Meet along the way so that we’re making informed and good decisions.


And to your point, college is expensive. You don’t want people wasting time in college or having to switch majors at a time. And I said, that would be my advice to her. Like make it a conversation, agree up on some deadlines. And a lot of times we hold the bar to that deadline that our kids will rise up.


Right. And those kids recommend that families.


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 I think the problem is parents. We get nervous, worried that our kids won’t they’ll miss something or miss out, or we just worry. So we want to talk about it all the time, because it’s in our minds all the time. When we do college planning with our parents, we always tell them to pick a time as a family, whether that’s Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM.


Once a week, once every other week, whatever it is, where we’re going to sit, and this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to talk about that. And then maybe at that time you have this timeline and this week we’re going to talk about this and this week, we’re going to talk about this because I think as parents, we could talk about it all the time and then they don’t listen to us.


So I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to have these types of conversations for all the reasons that you mentioned. They’ve helped me personally. And I’ve seen, I feel like we’ve always done a really good job. With what information we had to use, but this information, it’s just a game changer because it’s clarity is a good word.


You’ve used that word for your course, but that’s exactly what it is. It just it’s like, it’s the map that we don’t use anymore. Right? It’s the map. It’s just the map of where they’re going instead of. Go on out there and just get on the road and drive, which is what we’ve told them for years. So well, I’m excited for Launch Career Clarity for the Fenwick students.


We actually start in two weeks. Actually we start the week that the podcast debuts, so perfect timing.


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If people want to know more about Fenwick high school and all the great things that you guys are doing there. If they happen to be in this area and want to consider it as a high school option, or maybe they’re a school far away that are inspired by the work with the intention that you guys are doing, how can they learn more about Fenwick and your.


Well, well, we’re in the process of a marketing overhaul. So I think our website would still be a good starting place for getting information and finding me on there to reach out to me or one of the other counselors. And we’re sending wake falcons.org as probably the best place to get all of that contact information.


We are we’re regional school. So if your podcast isn’t a norm, like you said, Cincinnati and Dayton area, and you can just come here and get what you’re talking about right now. But yeah, they, I’m happy to talk about this whole process. And after we get through it to let you know how it’s going, I’m excited for our kids.


We’ve got some great kids who probably would be willing to talk about their experience with it as well. Oh, that’s fantastic. Well, we will definitely do an update episode in the future. Thank you so much, Vicki. I could talk to you all day long. Actually. I probably have some kids meeting. Go find some kids to help.


Thanks, Vicki. Thank you.