School counselors provide online services to students

HARLINGEN — Students have transitioned into taking online classes through the video conferencing app Zoom, even practicing sports and doing fine arts.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Counselors from the Harlingen and La Feria school districts are using technology to keep students mentally stable and emotionally healthy.

“Any student that is needing assistance, our different campuses have sent out phone numbers where the students can call,” said Sandra Tovar, HCISD Director of Guidance and Counseling.

“The counselors will visit with the students over the phone, but we also have licensed counselors available in the evening. Parents or students can set up an appointment during those times,” she said.

Counselors offer different activities depending on the grade level or school, Tovar said.

A few have recorded themselves reading books, and Zoom counseling sessions will be available starting this week.

“The meetings will cover different topics — from meeting a routine, keeping a positive attitude, how to handle stress or living at home right now,” Tovar said.

“Parents and students will be able to join into the Zoom session and participate,” she said.

According to Tovar, these services are offered out of concern for the deterioration of students’ mental health.

Counselors have also sent a series of surveys to students to check on their moods.

“They are checking to see if they are OK or if they need to talk to somebody,” Tovar said.

One of the questions in the survey asks how the student has been sleeping lately and how they are currently feeling.

Tovar said activities to do at home will soon be available to download.

La Feria ISD also offers similar services for its students.

“Once they declared we were going on an extended break, our administration team got a hold of us and said, ‘Look, we need you to assess where your students are and especially our seniors.’ We are supposed to be getting them graduated, and now there are a lot of questions,” said Norma Becerra, counselor at La Feria High School.

Becerra said she adapted a space at her home to provide services to students.

“We are fixing to launch a Google classroom for each class. From freshmen to seniors, will be able to communicate,” she said.

“We are trying to help them stay in focus, to get their work turned in or seniors following up with colleges and universities,” Becerra said.

The students who were seen on a regular basis are still part of her priorities, Becerra said.

Zoom meetings are scheduled where Becerra and her colleagues get to talk to students just as if they were in their regular offices.

Becerra also said the district is attempting to find ways to reach students who do not have Internet service.

“We have made it a base to talk to those we would see on a one to one basis and call them and make sure everything is OK, and they know the support is still there. It is just a different way,” Becerra said.

“We are also trying to help parents and sharing information for them and different advice. I think as time progresses, it is going to be the new normal. Just us being proactive and remaining positive,” she said.