Kijuana Crawford can relate to her students at Cedar Shoals because she once walked the halls of the high school herself. Born and raised in Athens Clarke-County, she was a graduate long before coming back to the school and serving as a Site Coordinator.
FC-CIS sat down with Kijuana to discuss how she’s come “full circle” and how she uses her own experiences to guide students through the issues they face and toward graduation.
FC-CIS: It must be exciting to serve students not only in the city where you were born but in the same school from which you graduated!
KIJUANA: I was born and raised in Athens-Clarke County, and, yes, I’m an alumnus of Cedar Shoals high school. I attended UGA, and prior to becoming a Site Coordinator, I served as the counseling office secretary. I took a break and went and worked on my degree in school counseling. So, I am a certified school counselor. It’s gone full circle. I’m back at Cedar again serving in a different capacity but still working with the wonderful staff and students.
FC-CIS: What is your day-to-day like at the school?
KIJUANA: In a high school setting, it’s very fast-paced. A lot of times, students are trying to be more independent and gain responsibility, but they still need someone to comfort and guide them. One of the biggest contributions we’ve been able to make to the students is having that open door policy.
FC-CIS: How do you use your background in counseling to serve the students?
KIJUANA: For me, having a background in counseling, I know that attentive listening is huge. A lot of times, students come in angry, hurt or upset. In many cases, all it takes is for someone to sit there and listen to how they feel about the situation or how they perceive it. Just being able to divulge information and communicate their feelings means they feel heard, and that can de-escalate the situation and prevent a verbal or physical altercation.
FC-CIS: What are some of the challenges your students face?
KIJUANA: Many times, these students face the challenges of having parents that work, and their parents may not take an active role in the school. Or maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to teach their children how to advocate properly for themselves. A lot of times, our students come in, and when they are facing issues with other students or a teacher, they haven’t been educated on how to express themselves- to respectfully get their point across or their thoughts out. So, I can say, that’s a challenge in itself. We find ourselves guiding the students a lot in problem solving.
FC-CIS: What support do you offer in academics?
KIJUANA: A lot of our students may have fallen behind in credits or are struggling in a subject area. And, again, not knowing how to effectively communicate with the teacher to say, ‘Hey, I’m having a hard time. Can you give me some assistance?’ Sometimes, our students have gotten behind because they don’t understand all of their graduation requirements.
FC-CIS: Do you have a personal story to share?
KIJUANA: I dealt with a parent at the beginning of the school year that really thought she was going to have to transfer her student out of Cedar, because she thought, ‘There’s no way she can graduate with the Class of 2018.’ But I sat down with them and was able to map out a plan. I’m happy to report she’s joining her friends at Cedar for her senior year and she’s on track to graduate.
FC-CIS: Behavioral issues can also be an issue to tackle, right?
KIJUANA: We had a group of young ladies that came to our group because they were having issues. They were able to express themselves to us, and we offered a listening ear. We were able to help them really THINK about what they were doing. A lot of times, we see things happen at home or in the neighborhoods and spill over into school.
FC-CIS: What do you do when a student first comes on your caseload?
KIJUANA: When we first meet a student, we’re looking at their attendance and their grades because we have the luxury of not having the demands that the social worker or school counselor has. We don’t have to jump right in on grades and behavior. We really spend a lot of time building that repore- that trust- and they intertwine. It’s not like they feel like they are coming to us just because of behavior, they feel like they are coming to us just to have a safe haven.
For more of Kijuana’s experiences being a Site Coordinator, please watch the video.
To learn more about the Site Coordinators, please visit the Site Coordinators page.