Sarah Kirk, a 2010 human development and family science graduate with an option in child and family services and a 2012 counseling graduate with an option in school counseling, was recently named the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) school counselor specialist.
In her new role, Kirk leads OSDE efforts to establish a comprehensive statewide school counseling framework. She will work alongside a cadre of counselors to develop the framework. Kirk works within the Office of Student Support at OSDE. The office, created by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister after she was elected for a second term in 2018, has many initiatives that support the whole needs of students. Kirk's goals include increasing consistency and clarity for school counseling job responsibilities and aligning practices with the evidence-based American School Counselor Association National model.
“The profession of school counseling has transformed,” Kirk said. “Today’s school counselors are vital members of the education team, helping all students in the areas of academic achievement, career and social/emotional development.”
Kirk was school counselor at Monroe Elementary in Norman for seven years and Kendall Whittier Elementary in Tulsa for one year. In Norman, she organized mentor and therapy dog programs, established a yoga club and led Kindness Ambassadors, a group of students facilitating The Great Kindness Challenge. For these efforts and more, she was named the 2018 Oklahoma School Counselor of the Year and a National Finalist for the 2019 School Counselor of the Year.
An internship she completed at Positive Tomorrows, a school for children experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City, while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in human development and family science led her to the school counseling field.
“Those children did not deserve their current conditions, yet they persevered,” Kirk said. “Because Positive Tomorrows prioritized their safety and basic needs, the students felt that security and slowly began trusting adults. I learned just one caring, loving, trusting adult can make all the difference in the lives of young people.”
Kirk then pursued a master’s in counseling at OSU, studying both the community counseling and school counseling tracks. For her practicum experience, she worked in mental health at the University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, in addition to interning at two different schools.
“Those diverse experiences really helped me to pin down which direction was the best fit for me,” Kirk said. “I fought hard against entering education, but ultimately, it was the best fit for me, and I am so grateful I found it!”
Kirk’s advice for current OSU students is to reflect and write down their “why” when planning their careers.
“Entering the helping profession is the best decision I ever made, not for myself but for others,” Kirk said. “My ‘why’ has always been to be able to positively impact the lives of students. As long as I remember that, I will continue to wake up every day and do all I can to create a brighter tomorrow for our young people.”
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