CUSD Counselor Spotlight: Kelly Waugh

In celebration of National School Counseling Week, CUSD Insider is showcasing profiles of the fantastic counselors we have throughout the District.

Today we are highlighting Kelly Waugh, Capistrano Valley High School Counselor

Q: How long have you worked in CUSD?

A: This is my 5th year at Capistrano Valley High School. However, I had the privilege of completing my internship hours the year before I was hired under the mentorship of Kathy Pelzer at Capistrano Valley High School and Cleo Victa at Hidden Hills Elementary School

Q: Describe your role in supporting student success at your school or in your department.

A: I like to describe my role as a one-stop shop to support students holistically. Typically we are known to support students with academic planning and interventions as they work toward their high school diploma and prepare for a variety of post-secondary options. What I truly value about our position is the ability to support students in three different areas: Academics, College and Career, and Social and Emotional–as they are all closely intertwined. School is important. However, I also know that our students are not only learning academically, but as well as personally and socially. As a consistent resource for our students, I am able to help them troubleshoot through different barriers. Overall, I am another piece of the puzzle of student’s support team through both positive and difficult times.

Q: What role do you play in the MTSS framework? How does this program benefit students in your opinion?

A: I absolutely love the MTSS framework as it provides a systematic way to proactively identify and address the strengths and needs of all students. If I could, I would spend hours with every one of my students each semester to give individual support in academic, college and career, and social/emotional support. As with every educator, my biggest constraint is time. We consistently use the MTSS framework as a district, as a site, and as a counseling program to ensure we are being intentional about the supports we provide and identifying those students that may need help but do not know how to ask for it. In one of the professional developments I attended, the speaker said “we should spend as much time with the students that don’t ask for help that those that do.” I think about this all the time. The MTSS framework allows us to identify those students who are not asking for help and in a way it provides a voice for those that have yet to find theirs.

Q: How long have you worked professionally in school counseling? 

A: My role at Capistrano Valley High School is my first experience as a professional school counselor–and I must say, I am lucky to be a Cougar. While I was completing my Masters and PPS credential at Chapman University, I was an intern in the counseling department at both Capo Valley High School and Hidden Hills Elementary School.

Q: What college degrees and professional certifications do you hold?

A: I have a B.A in Business Administration from with a concentration in marketing from CSUF, a Masters in counseling, and a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential in school counseling from Chapman University

Q: What do you find most rewarding about counseling work?

A: One of the most rewarding parts about being a school counselor is knowing and understanding the needs of the people in my school community. Being able to watch a student succeed in their own way is by far one of my favorite pats about my job. Every student is on their own unique path and their definition of success is unique to them–whether it is making the sports team, landing a role in the school musical, staying on track with their classes, graduating high school, or getting into their dream school.

Q: Is there a program that CUSD utilizes that is especially beneficial to student support?

A: In the academic and college and career realm, I am a big advocate for our College and Career Advantage courses and the support from our Futureology team. In high school our students are exploring different interests and these classes provide a unique hands on experience that is generally not available to them in traditional classrooms. As students prepare for their next steps after high school, we often jump to ask “what is your college major” or “what job are you pursuing” but those are difficult questions to answer if students have yet had the opportunity to really understand themselves. Our collaborative efforts with our on campus Career Guidance Specialist and our Futureology Counselor help make the transition to the world after high school less daunting and help students gain additional confidence in their decisions.

Q: When you were in school, did you have an impactful experience with a counselor?

A: Absolutely! I am still in contact with him to this day. Shout out to Mr. McIntosh from Fullerton High School. He was a major part of my high school experience and my decision later in life to pursue a future in school counseling. I don’t remember a lot of specific experiences, but what I do remember is that I always felt I could speak to him without a filter–whether it was to look for guidance or to have a safe space to talk about what I was feeling. But most importantly, he helped me gain the confidence to have autonomy over my own path.

Q: How do counselors in CUSD help support one another?

A: Counselor peer relationships are really important in this job. We are holders of a lot of information and work with students through a variety of situations–some very unique. We have scheduled professional developments–but have built great relationships with one another so we could consult with other counselors on site or on different campuses. I have a great team at Capo Valley High School and my first year I was lucky to be paired with a mentor counselor, Michelle Zides at Dana Hills. Our team at Capistrano Valley High School works very closely together and without our team many of the components of our grogram would not exist.

Q: What is the one thing you would want families to know about your role in student success that they might not be aware of?

A: A student’s high school experience and success is built around collaboration. Your students support team consists of the family, teachers, counselors, and other support staff. Your student may not want you to be involved as much as you may have been in elementary school or middle school, but we encourage parents/guardians to be involved and ask questions.



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