On any day of the week, Monrovia High School Guidance Counselors Joanie Stader and Gretchen Knock are doing more than helping students find the right college or trade school to attend after graduation. Students walk through their doors to find a safe place where they are heard and accepted.
Spend time with Stader and Knock and you’ll see two women who are passionate, committed, and genuinely care for their Monrovia students. When they know a student doesn’t have support from their family, they step up and help them find a path leading to a better life.
Ultimately, it’s the student’s choice to move forward or remain “as is”, but at least no one can say they didn’t have people on their side and cheering for their success.
“We wear many hats on a regular basis. One day, we may be cheering for a student who struggled to graduate and the next day, we’re talking to a kid about different career paths. We work really hard to tell our students that they can do anything despite what they hear at home,” said Knock, a guidance counselor at Monrovia High School for 20 years. “One thing I try to remind students is that what’s happening to them at home doesn’t define them. When they can understand their strengths and weaknesses, they can do things to make a better future for themselves.”
When a student’s problem is one that requires greater intervention, Stader and Knock rely on their teammates Cathi Cox and Kelly Gilkerson, who are mental health therapists on-site from One Sensible Solution, a mental health service provider in Indianapolis. Cox works primarily with high school students while Gilkerson helps students at the elementary and middle schools.
“Over the last two years, there’s been a big increase in the number of students we see. Kids are referring their friends and teachers are sending their students to us. The challenges kids are facing today are pretty tremendous and many people don’t understand why,” said Cox. “Children suffer physically, mentally and emotionally when they don’t have enough food to eat or there’s no water in the house, they have to work to help pay the bills, or they’re being abused.”
Some of the challenges are generational, meaning these students are experiencing poverty, abuse, neglect, and more. When they go to school, they find safety, support, and stability as they meet and talk with these four amazing women. Stader, Knock, Cox, and Gilkerson understand and demonstrate the importance for young people to use their voices, especially when they’re struggling.
- 2% of Indiana children have lived with someone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs.
- 3% of Indiana parents report that their children have ever witnessed domestic violence (defined as seeing or hearing parents or adults slap, hit, kick or punch one another in the home).
- 1 in 5 Indiana high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. The percentage of students who seriously considered suicide increased from 18.0% in 2005 to 19.8% in 2015.
“We get to watch these kids grow and mature as they weather the storms in their lives,” said Stader, who has been at Monrovia High School for 16 years. “We never know what each day is going to bring. I try to help students focus on what truly matters, but when they have so much going on outside of school, making education a priority is challenging.”
You have the opportunity to get involved and help more students find their path to success. The Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) wants to provide funding to have a social worker or mental health therapist in every school. Be a part of this solution and give today at www.cfmconline.org.
CFMC’s mission is to connect donors and their charitable giving with our evolving community needs in order to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations through impact grantmaking. The vision of CFMC is to be the philanthropic leader and a catalyst in order to maximize available resources in our community.