South Dakota school counselors playing larger role with students

Sara Holmberg’s job as a counselor at Dell Rapids Middle School has never been more challenging.

As fallout from the pandemic creates what the US Surgeon General calls a “youth mental health crisis,” school counselors like Holmberg find themselves providing not just academic and vocational guidance, but emotional support to students and families. Forging that many personal connections is difficult, so schools are exploring ways to supplement traditional counseling with professional partnerships to make sure teens get the attention they need.

Holmberg, 38, is one of three counselors in the Dell Rapids School District, which has 985 students. Now in her fourth year at the school, she is the only counselor serving the middle school, with an enrollment of about 300. She knows there is no way she can provide effective one-on-one guidance for every child, especially as more students and families continue to struggle with academic and financial setbacks from COVID-19.

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