Watching our children grow is exciting, scary and bittersweet all at once.  I will meet with all of students to introduce my services to them and provide an overview on the world of Drake and Counseling per the dates listed on my Counseling Calendar and in the Counseling Connection.  It is a special treat to meet children in the 9th grade and then watch them grow into mature young adults by senior year.  

    It proves an unexpected joy for many students to realize that things which scared them most in 9th grade are not even blips on the screen a year later.  When reflecting on the developmental differences in students at each grade level and working with students as they grow and mature, many issues have arisen:  the importance of communication, independence and responsibility – or what it takes to be a successful student at Drake High.  These are topics that I will address here.

    My Goal for All Students:  I want students to get to know me and develop a relationship that lasts through high school and beyond.  The more they talk to me (to my face and not my Facebook – since I don’t have one), the more questions they ask, the more resources they seek, the better we will get to know each other.  Supporting students in person is the MAIN THING I DO and I can do that better in person than from afar or through an intermediary.  

    FROSH YEAR:  9th graders show up here excited, a little scared about the challenges of high school, and a bit overwhelmed by the new freedoms and responsibilities that await them.  They often share their angst with their parents more than their excitement, as they are accustomed to leaning on you to smooth out life’s rough spots.  It is generally the expectation of young students that parents will communicate on their behalf.  Parents have most of the questions and need to learn how to navigate the new world of high school just as much as students do.  Parents also have the comfort of knowing how to communicate effectively with adults.  Parents are experienced and confident in their ability to manage things for their child.  Our job will be to work together to teach that skill to the children we share (as we want to train to them to become effective adults). Copying your student on emails sent to the school on their behalf and discussing your concerns with them is a good way to start.  Aside from situations of some exceptional nature, the student is the star of the show in high school and should be aware of, and a participant in, all communication related to them.  Ideally, the student will be communicating for herself and sharing with her parents (and cc’ing them on her emails).  This idea takes some time for the family to adapt to, but will serve our shared young adults well.

    SOPHOMORE YEAR:  During sophomore year, parents still generate a lot of questions on behalf of their children, especially as parents sense that their children are under increased pressure to perform in the classroom, all while taking on extracurricular pursuits.  When I meet with the sophomores each year, a recurring theme they share is that they feel more powerful, wise, and experienced.  They feel that they know how school works, what teachers expect, and how to figure things out compared to 9th grade.  This is an excellent time to begin turning over more responsibility to your student.  Put together your questions and concerns and let the student take charge of speaking to her/his teachers/counselor directly.  Information can then be reported back to parents.  Or, have students write the email to their counselor or teacher and cc parents, so that parents can be assured that they remain in the communication loop.  This part may make parents nervous, but is essential as students learn how to take on increased responsibility and independence.

    JUNIOR YEAR:  One of the tasks of becoming a young adult is learning to communicate for oneself and developing relationships with adults.  This is the year when many relationships are taking on new meaning; junior year teachers may be writing a letter of recommendation next year for colleges.  Juniors are very aware of the vast sea of change they have experienced in the past two years, and definitely see themselves developing in terms of maturity and competence.  They are in a place where they feel more confident managing themselves and they want to reach out and mentor younger students.  They feel that some of the issues of concern at school should be handed over to them, as they are confident in their ability to find solutions.  They have a strong desire to be independent, but they are not ready to be entirely so. 

    At this point students should be handling almost all communication with their counselor (except in emergency or critical situations).  Questions about SAT/ACT, college searches, college visits, handling difficult situations with coursework, etc., are all situations that students can take the lead on.  Having parents there for support and guidance remains essential, but the parental role is more of consultant and less managerial in nature.  This experience can actually be exciting and a relief for parents, as you can see the fruits of your guidance when your student comes home and shares a success story of a problem solved on their own.

    SENIOR YEARStudents should be managing all communication on their behalf (and cc'ing their parents to ensure they are kept in any critical communication loop).  The seniors I work with, your children, are fantastic, confident, and fully engaged in the post-secondary planning process.  Whether they are headed to college, mapping out a gap year abroad, or refining their resumes for the world of work, they are taking charge and steering their own ships.  The Class of 2018 is very proactive in terms of their communication and self-advocacy.  Awesome!

    As adults, it is difficult to let go.  Seeing your child begin to mature and navigate things on their own can result in a rush of pride in their independence and fear that they may fail.  It is natural to worry about these things and to want to fix the decisions that you don’t agree with or protect your child from all pain.  However, the way that children learn to make good decisions is by being granted ever-increasing responsibility (even when some of their decisions are less than stellar).  Your student, my client, will be a part of all communication via email with me, so please join me in cc’ing them on all of your communication on their behalf and I will cc parents on communication that is critical as well.  That being said, I am making a commitment to MINIMIZING ALL EMAILS this year so that I can continue to focus the VAST MAJORITY of my time and energy in DIRECT STUDENT SERVICE.  To that end, I respectfully request that you encourage your young adult to communicate on her/his own behalf IN PERSON (unless there is a dire emergency).  But if you do email me, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS put the Student First and Last Name and Grade Level in the Subject line (i.e., Shannon McKillop-Herr - 12).

    We all have the same goal in mind for these young scholars - to see them bloom into adulthood with the confidence and experience to manage the next set of challenges that await them - be that college, a year of travel, community service, or the world of work.    I have seen this process successfully navigated by thousands of families and know that, however bittersweet it is to watch our children grow so quickly, it is also incredibly satisfying to watch them venture out with confidence in their own abilities.


    Below is a quick TO DO list for your grade level with links to important information.  From this point forward, all TO DO lists will be located on the monthly calendars by grade level.


    • The Crew Leaders have a great list of advice that is listed in the Counseling Connection on Page 3.  Review it and use it!
    • There are so many ways to Catch the Drake Spirit!  Check them out.
    • Past Frosh students put together a list of ideas for a Successful Frosh Year!  Discuss your plan for success with your parents.
    • Frosh Parent Night is Thursday, August 31st at 5:15 pm in the Student Center.  We look forward to seeing Frosh parents there!
    • There is a strong correlation between attendance and academic success, so make it a priority to attend school and every class every day.
    • Review, print and post this Monthly Calendar for Frosh (there will be a new link each month)
    • Talk with your teachers about any assistance you need in their class


    • This is an important year in terms of academic performance.  It is the first year that UC/CSU’s begin to calculate your GPA for college admission.
    • There is a strong correlation between attendance and academic success, so make it a priority to attend school and every class every day.
    • Review, print and post this Monthly Calendar for Sophomores (there will be a new link each month)
    • Consider taking the PSAT in October if you are in Advanced Algebra or higher this year.  Sophomore year PSAT is one of best connection points between colleges and kidsColleges begin outreach to students earlier if they take PSAT.  Information on registration will be sent out soon.
    • For detailed info on SAT & ACT, please click here
    • Maintain grades of C or better for college eligibility. D/F grades are NOT college prep and there is no summer school in our district
    • Continue to expand participation in extra-curricular activities - sports, clubs, community service, drama, music, student government, a job, an internship


    • Review this page for a complete guide to:  How to Prepare for the College Application Process.  Everything you could possibly want to know right now is covered.  See me IN PERSON after our counselor classroom visits with questions.
    • Review, print and post this Monthly Calendar for Juniors (there will be a new link each month)
    • Take the PSAT in October  (registration information will be sent out soon)
    • Make it your responsibility to listen to/read the Pirate News
    • Read Frank Bruni’s book: Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be (or at least read my synopsis of the book)
    • Purchase the book College Match if you need some help in figuring out if or why you want to go to college.  I have a copy in my office if you want to preview it.
    • There is a strong correlation between attendance and academic success, so make it a priority to attend school and every class every day.


    • Review, print and post this Monthly Calendar for Seniors (there will be a new link each month).  All future TO DO lists of this nature will be listed on those calendars.
    • There is a strong correlation between attendance and academic success, so make it a priority to attend school and every class every day.
    • NCAA – see Ms Neumaier if you are planning to participate in athletics in college.
    • CSU Applications are accepted from October 1 through November 30 (CSU Admissions strongly recommend applying during October)
    • UC Applications are accepted from November 1 through November 30 (I strongly recommend that  you complete your application by November 15th, so that you can relax over Thanksgiving with your family and eliminate application stress from that weekend)
    • Common Application – deadlines for colleges vary
    • Over 26 of you have completed your Letter of Recommendation packets for me.  MANY MANY THANKS for being responsible and pro-active. For those of you still in the process, please complete it ASAP (deadline is October 1 and it is FIRM).  Paper copies are available in my office.
    • Work diligently on current studies as colleges are clear in their expectation that students maintain rigorous academic discipline in both fall and spring semesters
    • Keep a record of what college admissions procedures you have completed; keep me informed as you make or revise your plans


    “There cannot be a stressful crisis next week.

    My schedule is already full.”

    Henry Kissinger


    Last modified by Sheila R Souder on 08/30/2017