For Leah Kersey, it took a trip to Germany and a desire to help to know she wanted to pursue a career as a school counselor.
“I studied abroad for a year in Germany during high school, and it inspired me to pursue a degree in secondary education for world languages. I completed the Benedum Collaborative Program at WVU in 2014. It was a wonderful experience, and I was able to spend many hours in the classroom learning the craft,” Kersey said. “During that time, I realized students often needed support beyond what classroom teachers have the time and resources to offer. This inspired me to pursue a second graduate degree in counseling. I did my internship in an elementary school, and the rest is history. I have loved the job every day since.”
Kersey said while at WVU, she learned school counselors are trained mental health professionals. They complete the same coursework as clinical counselors and are equipped to meet the needs of students. She said school counseling programs address academic achievement, career readiness and social/emotional wellness and learning for K-12 students at every level.
“A comprehensive school counseling program ensures all students receive the emotional, social, and academic support they need. WVU’s program prepares you to create and run a comprehensive program based on the national model. Without such programming, elementary students may not learn the basic social/emotional skills they need to succeed. Middle school students may not understand the importance of academics for their futures. High schoolers could struggle to create and fulfill a plan for after high school. School counseling programs often fill gaps in school cultures and supply a well-rounded experience for students.”
As an elementary school counselor, Kersey said she knows she is a part of a larger community that works to ensure each child succeeds and goes on to be a productive member of society.
“The students of West Virginia are incredible. They are bright, creative, and inspired. They care deeply for their families and home. Whether they stay in West Virginia or explore other corners of the world, we want their views and opinions of our state to be strong and make us proud. School counselors are helping make this happen.”
A Moundsville, West Virginia native, Kersey earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from WVU. During her time at WVU, she worked for the Adventure WV Program, taught Zumba classes at the REC center, and worked as a GTA for the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. In 2016, she moved to Charleston with her husband and Airedale Terrier, all of whom are awaiting the arrival of their first child in 2021.