The counselors who care

A look into those counseling the student body


Graphic by Juliana Mun

High school counselors handle the social, physical, technical and academic aspects of a student’s school life, but there is only a small percentage of students who really know the people who work behind the scenes. Here’s a closer look during national school counseling week at some counselors who are unique in their way of counseling and handling the role they have been given. 

Professional counselor Jennae Bradley 

Jennae Bradley still works to prioritize her students and their academic and social success as much as possible even with 400 students, a list of various roles and 12 years of experience in counseling, 

“We’re here to help students be successful at school,” Bradley said. “We focus on how we can keep [them] in the class and meet them where they’re at to provide them with their needs.” 

Bradley reaches a variety of students: students who need help deciding what courses to take, foreign exchange students and ones who are in deep financial or emotional need. She said work like this has come natural to her since childhood. 

This is Jennae Bradley’s second year at Hebron as a professional counselor. She’s been teaching for twenty years and has been a counselor for twelve years. (Provided by Jennae Bradl

Bradley’s father was a huge reason why she wanted to become a counselor in the first place. His love of self-help books and psychology spurred her onto a path of wanting to help people and solve conflict in multiple areas. But while she loves helping, she also encourages self-reliance along the way. 

“A counselor’s job is customer service and helping students, parents, family and staff do what they need to be successful,” Bradley said. “[But] I love when someone comes to me with a problem and, through our conversation, their own light bulbs go off.” 

Bradley said a huge part of her job is not just giving answers, but helping students find them. This is her second year at Hebron and, compared to the other campuses she’s been to, Bradley said she sees an exceptional confidence, ability and advocacy in the school. 

As a counselor, she hopes to help students as intimately and earnestly as she can. One of her true loves is her 10-year-old daughter, who she says is one of the only things she’s ever wanted. Her dedication for her daughter translates over to her job at Hebron, where she applies parenting to the way she counsels. 

“[I see] every student that comes in my office as my daughter,” Bradley said. “That’s how I approach every student and every situation. I think of what I would want for her.” 

Student assistance counselor Stephanie Bañuelos 

Stephanie Bañuelos is a Student Assistance counselor. This means she specializes in the mental health and being an emotional support for students. (Provided by Stephanie Bañuelos)

In high school, Stephanie Bañuelos signed up for an internship in social workinvolving  helping kids with behavioral issues and broken homes. She was sure she wanted to be an interior designer, but it was with this experience that she started to have a change of heart and wanted to pursue counseling.

“It started when my mentor said that we wouldn’t be focusing on the teenagers [at the internship] because ‘they were so set in their ways,’” Bañuelos said. “If someone tells me something isn’t possible, I’m the kind of person who wants to prove them wrong. That experience lit a fire inside me.”

Today, Bañuelos is a student assistance counselor: a branch of school counseling that deals with providing concentrated emotional and social help to students. She splits her time between Hebron’s main campus and 9th grade campus and is a licensed social worker with a background in mental health. The job doesn’t deal with college planning or scheduling classes, but rather unloading the emotional needs of a student from Hebron’s professional counselors. 

“Our counselors already do so much, so when students sometimes need mental health support, it is nice to have someone like me who can really focus on that need,” Bañuelos said. “Because of my background, I can help students with many types of crises.”

Before coming to Hebron, Bañuelos worked with “Communities in Schools,” a dropout prevention program. With that experience, she focuses on helping students with the process of carrying external pressures so that they can reach graduation.

“I always feel like I’m a steppingstone for students amongst the many steppingstones in [their] life,” Bañuelos said. “That’s why when I personally know what challenges they went through, [graduation] is that much more impactful. This is the finish line to get to the next huge chapter of their life.” 

Bañuelos said every day is special and Hebron is a unique school due to its flourishing diversity. It’s her first time working in a school with so many different people, and in her line of work, that allows her to reach a variety of students and help them. 

“At Hebron, we have everything when it comes to race, socioeconomic status and people from all walks of life,” Bañuelos said. “Kids get to interact with people who don’t look like them. That’s the real world.” 

Lead counselor Justin Fields 

Justin Fields is a lead counselor at Hebron. Being a lead counselor entails representing the counseling staff along with advocating for student needs. (Provided by Justin Fields)

There was a time when Justin Fields was lost. He didn’t know what career he wanted to go for and the options laid before him ranged from owning a music hall to becoming an accountant. Despite all the potential choices, his love for camp counseling made being a school counselor seem like the correct path to take. 

“I liked helping students feel that they could be themselves,” Fields said. “I asked myself what I could do to be a positive influence and help kids be comfortable being who they are — [that’s why] I became a school counselor.” 

Fields is a lead counselor, which requires different skills sets and responsibilities than other counseling roles. He helps with background program management, plans meetings with staff and represents the counseling department at district meetings. But one of the more important jobs he has is interacting with students and making sure he is advocating for them. 

“Counselors are a nice bridge between classrooms, families and administration,” Fields said. “Most students never seek me out because they have a good grasp on everything, but the most important thing is that I am here if they do.” 

Fields said schools have made a huge effort to change the stigma surrounding counseling over the last 20-25 years. He remembers not receiving as much support when he was younger as students do today from their counselors. Now, counselors are present in academic assistance, personal and social development and college and career planning.

“I like to think [that] at Hebron there are many reasons to come see counselors and that we have a counseling department that can serve students in many ways,” Fields said. “We’re really just here to help.” 

In Fields’ personal life, he loves finding people’s passions, collecting music recordings and fueling his first-grade daughter’s LEGO obsession by involving himself as much as he can in her life. She is part of the reason he came to Hebron despite the 30-minute drive — it’s in the LISD school system and allows him access to her education. Along with his daughter, Fields also came to Hebron because of the diverse student body. 

“Working with students is my favorite part [of the job],” Fields said. “I love the journey toward graduation and the preparation for that. Every day is different in [its own] way, but students make it the best part.”