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Students ‘Hop’ Toward School Counseling Office, Finding Emotional Support and Academic Success

Students ‘Hop’ Toward School Counseling Office, Finding Emotional Support and Academic Success

Focused on student-centered, whole child learning, Redwood City School District (RCSD) school counselors know that children thrive when they are supported socially and emotionally–resulting in enhanced academic engagement. 

Ana Paula Garay, LMFT, the lead mental health clinician for RCSD, emphasized the critical importance of the work done by counselors:

“School counselors are instrumental in providing students with the support and guidance they need personally and emotionally, which, in turn, helps them succeed academically. Our counselors serve as trusted allies, advocates, and mentors for our students.” 

RCSD students know that school counselors are a safe place to land when they need support, in addition to their teacher and other staff members. Increased access to counselors, such as through Lunch Clubs, offers students a chance to unwind and reduces stigma around mental health supports. 

Students can be found cooperatively playing board games, taking advantage of fidgets, or even having the opportunity to pet a rabbit. Henry Ford Elementary students visiting school counselor Mary Ann Nakhla, M.A., M.Ed., MSW, PPS, who hosts Lunch Clubs after students have their lunch, can find a moment of tranquility while petting either small bunny on site–Moose and Goose.

Two bunnies by the names of Goose and Moose

"The minute you pick them up, you feel instantly happy," said one student. 

Another student, identifying those moments when you just want to vent a little, said of the rabbits, “They are good listeners because they don't talk back."

A Henry Ford student spends time with Moose in the counselor's office during Lunch Clubs

A Henry Ford student spends time with Moose in the counselor's office during Lunch Clubs


In addition to the outstanding support provided by the district’s full-time counselors at each school site, the district’s counseling services are enriched through partnerships with community organizations. These partnerships support the district by extending its reach, offering comprehensive support to students and their families. These community organizations collaborate daily with RCSD counselors to ensure that students have access to a wide range of resources and support systems during the regular school day as well as after school as part of the extended day program. 

One partnership is the collaboration with Stanford University. This partnership, which received an award from the university in 2023, enhances the quality and scope of the RCSD counseling services. Through this partnership, counselors have access to cutting-edge research, training opportunities, and innovative strategies for supporting student success.

National School Counseling Week, celebrated the first full week of February annually, offered RCSD a moment to reflect on the invaluable contributions of its dedicated team of school counselors, shining the spotlight on these unsung heroes who play a pivotal role in supporting the personal and emotional well-being of each student.

RCSD expresses deep gratitude to the dedicated team of counselors and the immeasurable contributions they make to the school community.

Learn More About Counseling Services in RCSD Schools