Ben Hannani, staff writer
Every day, hundreds of students pass by the NormanAid Center in the main hallway but relatively few are aware of its significant role on campus. Supervised by Allison Norman-Franks, the NormanAid Center offers a variety of counseling options for students searching for support. Whether a student requires short-term or long-term counseling, the NormanAid Center, which houses the Peer Counseling program, has an appropriate solution.
“Obviously, we›re a school so our number one priority is academics and helping students to learn,” Norman-Franks said. “The purpose of the NormanAid Center is to help students work through their social issues so that they can then be present in class and focus and learn.”
Every day, 12 counselors are available at students’ disposal for ongoing therapy. Some of the counselors are peer counselors, fellow Beverly students who have been trained in conflict mediation. Students interested in becoming peer counselors must participate in an application process. About eight to 10 students are selected each year because of the semester-long training process that follows. Training includes weekly meetings with a therapist and role-playing.
“I spent a lot of time talking to my friends about their problems and I thought it would be a good idea to do that more in the NormanAid Center,” senior Zachary Fouladian said. “Actually, this is why most of the Peer Counselors from my year applied for the program.”
Additionally, Norman-Franks is available for short-term counseling. Should a student require meetings for an ongoing period of time, Norman-Franks will refer the student to group counseling, a peer counselor or a counselor from the Maple Counseling Center. The Maple Counseling Center has contracted with the Beverly Hills School District to provide counseling services to students onsite at Beverly and in addition to training the peer counselors.
In addition to traditional counseling sessions, peer counselors also meet with students in groups. In the past, the peer counselors have had groups for LGBQT students and students in divorced families. According to Norman-Franks, the NormanAid Center will offer a support group if there is a need and for one enough students would like to participate in the group.
If a student is uncomfortable with being seen walking into the NormanAid Center, he or she can arrange to meet with a counselor during a class period, when most students are not walking the hallways.
Students are also welcome to drop by to pick up any number of informational pamphlets in front of the NormanAid Center. Pamphlets are available for a variety of issues, including how to resolve eating disorders, teen violence, bullying and information on drug treatment programs.
For those who do not prefer in-person interaction, there are a couple of beneficial online resources that the Center has in place. Normanonymous, an anonymous website, allows students and parents to express concerns about another student confidentially. Also available online is the NormanAid Student Support Blog, where students may anonymously receive support from or talk with a staff member at the NormanAid Center.
“Normanonymous is more reporting out about something you’re concerned about and the blog is for people who want help for themselves but aren›t comfortable comingin,”Norman-Frankssaid.“We’re trying to reach students in different ways if they’re not comfortable coming in here, which some aren’t because they think, ‘Ugh, people are seeing me walk through those doors.’ We want to make sure that they›re at least finding a way to reach us.”
While Norman-Franks feels the NormanAid Center is being utilized well, she also believes that the Center could benefit from greater publicity. According to Norman-Franks, the Center currently receives more students than it has time to counsel. In order to better promote the NormanAid Center, Peer Counseling will team with Link Crew to help new-to-district students in their transition process. Additionally, the peer counselors have filmed videos that will be shown at next year’s Back-to-School celebration. The videos will address bullying, peer pressure, problems with academics and issues with parents.
“I feel like there are still a lot of kids who will probably be like, ‘I don’t know where the Norman Aid Center is,’” Norman-Franks said. “I’m really trying to make sure every students know [the NormanAid Center is] here. Even if they’re not utilizing it, it’s still supportive to know that there’s a place to go if I need help, so I want to make sure that every student knows we’re here.”