Guidance counselor helping students navigate their future during pandemic

Back to School

WESTPORT, Mass. (WPRI) — High school seniors are just beginning the school year by concentrating on classes, but many are also looking ahead to college next year.

“We don’t do this job for anything else but the connection you have with kids and the difference you can make in their lives.” Leslie Ruel has been helping Westport students succeed in their high school years, and in life, for fifteen years.

“The kids that are driven will always be driven, but it’s that middle group of kid that needs a little prodding who I know will do well ,” she said.

Ruel is honest: It’s been a struggle getting students to focus on classes and thinking about college when she can only meet with them on a computer screen. Some students last spring would log into a virtual class while on the job.

“They want to do both. That’s going to be a struggle, I think, we haven’t seen that because we haven’t started, but I have a feeling I’m going to have fifteen to twenty kids that are going to want to do work and school and you just can’t do that right. Especially if you’re a senior,” Ruel said.

The college freshman experience is also different this year, but Ruel said her incoming seniors are still eager to continue to higher education. “This group now is a very high end academic group of kids coming into the senior year, but they’re teenagers, and they haven’t been in school, so the structure is gone, so we’re just going to have to really keep on them more than ever. I feel like I’m doing it more than ever,” she said.

Ruel is seeing the pandemic shift the focus on what college admissions look at when selecting candidates. The focus on standardized tests like the SATs is replaced with looking at resumes and a student’s community involvement — a glimpse at how a student could make connections in the real world.

“A couple of kids have been taking care of elderly neighbors and doing their shopping, so you can still be connected even though we’re not able to volunteer and do those things,” she said.

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