By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Badger Springs Middle School
“It’s not anger that gets you in trouble; it’s what you do with it,” says Faye Arco to the students attending her “anger management” meeting at Badger Springs Middle School. Attendees have been referred to see Arco, a counselor at the Moreno Valley campus, for fighting or getting suspended.
“First we are going to take the vow of confidentiality,” says Arco. “What we talk about can’t leave this group. In the future we will talk about the things that make us angry or get us into trouble. We can learn how to use anger to make our lives better. We will learn we have choices in everything we do.”
Arco has spent 31 years helping middle school students make good choices, as a counselor for more than two decades and a teacher for 10 years before that. She has boundless energy and says there is no such thing as a typical day. She runs groups for students with low self-esteem and for students with disabilities who need test-taking strategies. There are groups to deal with grief and loss. There are also daily crises to deal with, such as referring suicidal students to a hospital for evaluation or referring students who are “cutting” or mutilating themselves to see a mental health professional. She once thwarted a student’s plan to shoot other students during lunchtime.
“If you do prevention, you won’t need so much intervention,” she says. “If kids feel connected, they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. I really believe students need someone to connect with them and to believe in them. It’s people who make a difference in children’s lives, not metal detectors.”
She makes connections through innovative programs she has helped start by obtaining grants. The ABCs of Diversity group has reduced hate-inspired harassment at school. A mentoring program called SKATERS (Students Keeping Attitudes Toward Earning Reward and Success) offers teens a safe haven at lunchtime, with the goal of increasing student attendance, improving academic success and encouraging positive social interaction. She is co-facilitating a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus. Her students completed service learning that included founding a clothing closet and food bank to assist students and their families. All of these programs have the goal of empowering students, says Arco.
Arco holds Family Counseling Nights and invites everyone — including siblings — to attend. She observes that parental involvement decreases during adolescence based on the false assumption that teens don’t need their parents as much. She also sponsors anger-management groups just for parents, as well as support groups for students whose families have incarcerated members.
“It’s a challenge with so many cuts to school counseling,” says Arco. “We need more people. Last year we lost 1.5 counselors at this site and 27 percent of counselors in our district.”
She was California Counselor of the Year in 2008 as well as one of the top 10 finalists in the competition for American School Counselor of the Year. The comprehensive guidance and counseling program at Badger Springs Middle School was named by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) as one of 72 Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) winners and was the only school in the state of California to earn the distinction this year.
Students appreciate her efforts and say that without her, their motivation to succeed would not be as high. Sometimes just having a caring adult to talk to makes all the difference, they confide.
“Kids will rise to whatever you expect of them,” says Arco. “I set my expectations very high. Nobody made excuses for me because I was poor, and I don’t make excuses because they are poor. Education was my ticket out of poverty in south Louisiana. My reward is watching them bloom — and seeing what they’ve become years later when they come back and visit me. I am very lucky. I really love what I do.”
Related Tags: Publications, Educator, Inside Educator, Volume 14 Issue 4, Educator Feature, Budget, Family, Health care, Member, Parents, Student,