A Flandreau School District counselor has been named the South Dakota School Counselor Association’s Rising Start of the year
Kari Lena-Helling, a middle school and high school counselor, is in her third year at Flandreau.
“Our school district prioritizes mental health, and I work with an amazing team,” Lena-Helling said. “As a team, we strive to create a preventative school mental health program while providing interventions for students in need.”
The award recognizes a school counselor who is a newcomer to the profession within the last five years; demonstrates highest standards of professional competence; has made contributions to the school community; has excellent rapport with students, parents and school staff, and is a member of the South Dakota School Counselor’s Association, has a master’s degree and is state certified. It is one of three awards the association gives out each year.
While at Flandreau, Lena-Helling has been an advocate for the expansion of staff to meet the needs of students. She also has helped bring in programs addressing positive behaviors, suicide prevention, cigarette use prevention and social emotional learning. That has included inviting speakers to talk to students and implementing long-term programs that students use every day.
She also has created partnerships with three mental health agencies for in-school counseling and serves as president of the Moody County Child Protection Team. She and the school’s other counselors started Fliers Closet this year to provide clothing and hygiene products to students and place feminine hygiene products in restrooms.
Lena-Helling said the students have been her blessing.
“They are resilient, compassionate and changemakers. My favorite part of my job is watching their confidence and assertiveness increase so that they can advocate for themselves and one another,” she said. “Our students are learning to speak up, resolve conflicts and reach out when help is needed.”