The photograph pictures a group of parents attending a Saturday morning workshop at a local Cobb County school, being presented by Turner Chapel AME Church Education Ministry Leader, Mychal Wynn. The 4-hour workshop is focused on increasing k-12 student academic achievement in preparation for expanding students’ college access and scholarship opportunities.

The importance of such faith- and community-based programs is reinforced in the Time Magazine article, “The High School Guidance Counselor Shortage,” by Timothy Pratt:

Campbell High School (Cobb County Georgia) counselor Jamie Ryder’s determined cheer interrupts the half-asleep, early morning silence of a dozen ninth-graders crammed into a small classroom as she launches into a 90-minute talk about their future.

The challenges facing Ryder soon become clear. When she asks about her students’ goals, one hand goes up. Then a low voice in the back of the room wisecracks, ‘Be a drug dealer.’ A while later, when the students sit at computers and fill out a questionnaire to help determine what courses of study and careers would be good for them, several struggle with the words on the screen. This is probably the only time that many of these students will see her or any other counselor for at least a year.

Campbell High, in Smyrna, Georgia, is trying to counteract a vexing but largely unseen problem facing public schools across the country: There is a shortage of competent counselors at a time when getting into college is more expensive, more confusing and more important than ever.”

The article goes on to note some astonishing statistics and why “complaining” about public schools will do little to help our children:

  • The average public school counselor is responsible for 471 students
  • California public high school counselors are responsible for as many as 500 students
  • Georgia public high school counselors are responsible for as many as 512 students

Public high school counselors are also required to perform many jobs that are unrelated to college planning or providing college admissions information to students and families. The reality is that most public school students will receive tragically little college preparation, admissions, scholarship, or financial aid guidance from their high school counselor.

In contrast, private school counselors are responsible for far fewer students (around 100), have less job responsibilities, and may focus the majority of their time on assisting students and families with college preparation and admissions.

Faith- and community-based organizations must draw on their resources of retired educators, parents who have navigated their children’s way into college, current college students, recent college graduates, and community partners to close the college-knowledge gap. Where else are our children to turn?

Read the article…