Virtual school counseling conference draws more than 700 attendees

Nurturing student resilience was the focus of a virtual conference attended by hundreds of Orange County school counselors and educational leaders this week.

Organized by OCDE’s Educational Services team, the 2020 Orange County Virtual Counselor Symposium was held from 8 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The free event took place entirely online and drew more than 500 K-12 and community college counselors, along with some 200 district administrators, site leaders and support staff.

“This was the largest group in attendance ever,” said OCDE K-12 School Counseling Services Coordinator Luz M. Arellano. “It was so gratifying to see all the counselors come together for one common purpose — to support our students’ well-being.”

School counselors and advocates

“Nurturing Student and School Counselor Resilience” was the theme of the 2020 Orange County Virtual Counselor Symposium, which also celebrated 10 local counselors and advocates.

Dr. Erika Patall, associate professor of education and psychology at USC’s Rossier School of Education, was the keynote speaker. She addressed supporting students’ motivation and well-being in the age of COVID-19 and distance learning by focusing on agency and autonomy.

Other breakout sessions offered practical strategies for promoting wellness and success through the American School Counselor Association’s three domains — academic, career and social/emotional development. Titles included “Building Student Hope and Self-Efficacy Through Career Development” and “College Admissions: How the Pandemic Made the Process Pivot.”

There were also sessions to address the well-being of educators, including how to manage emotional and physical fatigue.

“We really wanted to make it a point to provide a short yet meaningful time together filled with practical strategies to support the current challenges,” Arellano said. “Our focus was to support student resilience and well-being, but also to care for the caregiver’s well-being.”

This year’s symposium was held in coordination with the Los Angeles and Orange County Regional Consortium of community colleges, OC Pathways, California Community Colleges and the Future Built Orange County Career Education initiative.

The event also offered a chance to celebrate a handful of local counselors and advocates honored through OCDE’s Counselor Recognition Program. Here’s a breakdown of this year’s winners:

K-12 Counselor Awards

  • Jacqueline Gallardo-Hoffmaster, Robert C. Fisler Elementary School, Fullerton School District
  • Kyle Sivcovich, Horace Mann Elementary School, Anaheim Elementary School District
  • Darwin Vega, Capistrano Valley High School, Capistrano Unified School District

K-12 Counselor Advocate Awards

  • Shirley Diaz, Program Specialist, Educationally Related Mental Health Services, Anaheim Elementary School District
  • Katy Castellanos, Director of Transition Support Services/College and Career Readiness, Santa Ana Unified School District

Community College Counselor Awards

  • Nick Arman, Fullerton College
  • Robert Gallegos, Santa Ana College
  • Andrea Lane, Orange Coast College
  • Jennifer Rachman, Saddleback College
  • Tiffany Tran, Irvine Valley College