PEN Community Heroes

 


Mary Campbell - Community Hero

MARY CAMPBELL

A short statement of what inspires you about PEN:

I believe that student success is directly tied into personal relationships, a safe and supportive
environment, and a team of cheerleaders to help students see their potential and reach their goals.
PEN’s mission, “to engage, educate, and empower parents in promoting the social-emotional and
mental well-being of youth and families,” encompasses everything I believe as a counselor. My goals
as educator are to support students thriving (not just surviving), allow students to feel accepted for
who they are, and allow students the freedom, support and encouragement to dream and explore. In
order to do this, parents must be engaged in their students’ success and learning. What I love most
about PEN is that they make this partnership easier for parents and educators. They provide wonderful
lectures, video series, and information to parents about social-emotional topics that are challenging to
discuss. They bring experts to the table that are knowledgeable yet also humble enough to learn
alongside the parents. They provide resources to the schools in BVSD and do a great job of
connecting community resources with the educators that need them. Working together with PEN has
been an honor and I have witnessed firsthand the difference there presentations have made in our
community.

A description of your accomplishments at your school, and with your efforts to incorporate gender
neutral bathrooms...anything you want the community to know!

I think the greatest possible way to advocate for counseling is to lead by example every day. A few of
my core values are equity, leadership, kindness, family and growth. My coworker, Linda Bostic,
writes, “everything that she is involved in through her counseling position is advanced through the
lens of inclusion, creating a safe school, and championing every single student.”

Regarding the work I have done the last 2 years around inclusive spaces and supporting gender
and sexual diversity:

Last year, I joined the Boulder Valley Safe Schools Coalition. I had been meeting with several
students who identified as transgender, gender queer, or non-binary and felt that our school could
do a better job to support them. Most of the students with whom I was working, had been
hospitalized. Although I had been leading Allies club (formerly GSA) for eight years, I knew that I
wanted to make some strategic changes to improve the climate of our school for LGBTQIA+
students.

I learned that our district had guidelines and policies (AC-E3) around supporting transgender and
gender nonconforming students. Fueled by the fact that these policies had been adopted in 2012 yet
our school, and very few, if any, other BVSD schools had done anything to implement these policies,
I met with our executive leadership team and proposed that we make some strategic changes to
make our LGBTQIA+ students feel safer at school. First, I co-facilitated an LGBTQIA+ 101 lesson for
our high school to introduce them to various terms and definitions and then had a discussion about
how they can make P2P safer. I then proposed that we make 3 of our staff bathrooms available to
students, label them all-gender, and have signage in the binary bathrooms that let students know
where our gender inclusive restroom spaces were. I then researched and designed our signage for
our school.

This August, I returned to Peak to Peak, and led trainings at each level (Elementary, Middle and
High) about gender-inclusive restrooms, classrooms, and language. BVSSC and I encouraged our
teachers to allow students to introduce themselves and their preferred pronoun. I am proud to say
that nearly all of our high school teachers did this! In the first week of school alone, I had two gender
expansive students (both had previously been hospitalized) tell me how much safer they felt at
school because of these changes.

I invited CU Boulder’s team from A Queer Endeavor to walk through our build out plans with our
Executive Director of Operations, Facilities Director, in order to ensure we have a clear plan for
gender-inclusive locker room spaces. It became clear that there were not great examples of high
schools (or colleges) that had already completed an inclusive build out. I continued to meet with our
Executive Leadership Team, EDO and FD to try to find solutions to this important space need and
also invited Odette Edbrooke, from BVSD, out to try to garner more ideas. While we have not find
the magical solution, we are working on making sure that we have more private changing spaces for
all students.

Recently, I have surveyed our staff about what inclusive practices they are using and what support
they need to continue to make improvements in their classroom. I will be leading a workshop on
April 8 on Gender Inclusive Classroom Strategies (see blurb below) and am working on a video
project with current and former LGBTQIA+ students for a K-12 staff training on April 29.

April 8th Workshop
Are you excited about implementing more Gender Inclusive classroom strategies, but nervous about
getting started? Are you curious about the specific steps and strategies you can implement to create
greater acceptance of gender diversity for all students? Have you wondered what does it look like for
a teacher to create a classroom space for transgender and other students living outside of expected
gender norms? If you answered, “Yes,” to any of these questions, this workshop is for you! In this
collaborative workshop, we will build your capacity to do activities and lessons through curriculum
integration. We will discuss specific instructional entry points for applying the lens of gender diversity
to classroom programs and lessons. Using teachers’ current curricular plans, this personalized session
will allow teachers to integrate gender inclusive practices into the natural flow of the classroom.
Please sign up early so that I can tailor this workshop to your needs!

Regarding the other work I do… I have attached a letter in support of my nomination for Colorado
School Counselor of the year written by my co-counselor, Linda Bostic. She beautifully
summarized a lot that I do!

Peak to Peak
Charter School
800 Merlin Dr.
Lafayette, CO 80026
303.453.4600
www.peaktopeak.org
To The Colorado School Counselor Association:
Mary Campbell is both a consummate professional, as well as one of the most engaging, effective
school counselors with whom I have interacted. As a co-counselor (and also a high school parent), I
work right next door to Mary and interact with her daily. Everything that she is involved in through
her counseling position is advanced through the lens of inclusion, creating a safe school, and
championing every single student. If one were looking for a dream colleague, they would look no
further than Mary. She is always willing to brainstorm solutions to difficult situations, lend a listening
ear after a crisis and a tough day, or give her perspective on a new lesson or program. She not only
makes our students better, she makes her colleagues better. She is the glue that holds our department
together, as she is an expert at thoughtfully offering positive feedback and regard, and building a
cooperative team. As the lead counselor on the PST (Problem Solving Team), Mary offers invaluable
expertise to the entire high school staff who are seeking creative ideas in how to reach failing and
under-performing students. Her ease in collaborating with our counseling team, as well as all teachers,
is truly a marvel to behold. As an invaluable member of our counseling team, which has been
pursuing RAMP certification for the past two years, Mary has sought excellence in all areas of our
department—from counseling students, to leading small groups, to teaching lessons on hate
prevention and healthy relationships, to constantly striving to make our school an inclusive, safe
environment for all.

One of Mary’s major claims to fame here at Peak to Peak is the outstanding PAC (Pumas
Authentically Connecting) program she has created. Modeled after the National LINK program, Mary
has built PAC into an authentic way for upperclassmen to connect with, support, and mentor new
incoming students to the high school, so that no student falls through the cracks. The program consists
of many fun events throughout the year, designed to connect students to one another, to get to know
their teachers in a different relaxed setting, and to stretch students out of their comfort zones. The
program is so successful, that each year we have double the number of students apply to become a
PAC leader as there are spaces available. Mary expects her leaders to have stellar character, to already
have shown great potential for leadership, and to have shown that they care for all students. In
addition, she has created a small cohort of students she calls her CORE. They attend a daily
leadership, training, and preparation class with her each day, through which they are trained to mentor
the other PAC leaders, to teach social and emotional lessons in health classes, as well as to teach
many advisory lessons to 9th graders on various topics to continue to support this grade. The hours
that are spent interacting with each other causes this group of CORE students to bond in a unique and
profound way with each other and with their fearless leader. Every year, the impact Mary has on these
students’ lives in terms of character growth, mindset, and often changes in life purpose, is astounding.
She regularly has students and parents write to her following graduation, or even years later, to simply
say: “Thank you. You changed my life (or my child’s life) in ways that never would have occurred
without your investment, expertise, love, and guidance”.

Ask anyone at Peak to Peak—student, staff, or parent, and I have no doubt they would all characterize
Mary as being a truly outstanding advocate for teens. She cares deeply about every one of our
students. Most important to her is that Peak to Peak both values, and actually is a safe and supportive
school for all students. To that end, she has joined the Board of the Second Wind Foundation so that
she can advocate for those students who are in the depths, contemplating suicide, with no financial
resources to find their way back to health. She developed, and has for years taught, our entire suicide
prevention curriculum to our students. This year, she was featured in a video that has been shown
school-wide targeted to our parents on helping their children lead healthy, balanced lives, while
empowering them to ask the hard questions of their children, such as “Are you thinking about
suicide?” Additionally, Mary is a member of the Boulder Valley Safe School Coalition and is the
liaison on our campus to promote equity and advocacy for all students. This year, at every level’s staff
meeting at our K-12 school, Mary sensitively presented information on how to create gender inclusive
classrooms, use inclusive language while teaching, and respectfully talk with each student in a caring
and authentic way that meets the needs of each individual—including those who are transgender or in
a transition to another gender. It is no surprise that Mary also advises our Allies club, which supports
students who feel they may be on the fringes of the social life in high school, have experienced some
degree of bullying, or just need a safe space to go to share their feelings about the difficulties they’re
experiencing in adolescence. All students are welcome to attend, and many do so to become allies
with their peers who they know are experiencing prejudice or being treated unfairly. Mary brings in
many special speakers who have overcome similar obstacles and can offer empowerment and
solutions to our students.

As a parent of a current senior who is one of Mary’s ‘PAC kids’, I have the fortune of viewing her
role from a different lens. My daughter is an extreme introvert, but last year, Mary afforded her the
opportunity to stretch her wings and grow, even though she wasn’t the typical highly outgoing and
gregarious PAC leader. Last year, when my daughter experienced a loss of another leadership
activity, Mary met with her to brainstorm other ways she could get involved at school, which would
also resonate with her in an authentic manner and bring purpose to her life. The result was a team of
students created to be ‘POSA’s (PAC Leader on Special Assignment) this year, who have specific
tasks assigned to them, help support unique lessons, and have more leadership responsibility. This is
what Mary regularly accomplishes—she connects with a student (who isn’t even on her case load),
listens to their heart, creatively problem solves, and comes up with a unique solution that will best
serve the student and cause them to grow.

Mary’s passion for students and the art of school counseling is infectious. Several of her students
plan to follow in her footsteps so they can create the same kind of lasting impact on a young person’s
life, guiding them to the perfect college fit, a fulfilling career, but more importantly, to becoming
incredible human beings who care about others and are able to impact their world for positive change.
As a colleague of Mary’s, I have been tremendously influenced by her expertise in the field, her art of
effortlessly connecting with students, her intense commitment to every aspect of her job, and the
excellence she emphasizes in anything and everything she takes on. When I came to Peak to Peak
seven years ago, I was new to the field, and although Mary was not the head of our department, she
was my unofficial mentor, my go-to person for every single detailed question I asked (even via email
into the wee hours of the evening), my model for interacting with students and parents, and a shoulder
to cry on when I encountered my own difficulties with my older teen-aged daughter at the time. I
have no doubt that without her guidance and mentorship, I would not be the counselor I am today.
After working as a school counselor for several years now, and being exposed to many other
professionals in the field, I can honestly say, without any hesitancy, that Mary’s aptitude as a
counselor is surpassed by none. I regard her abilities, her constant innovation, her pursuit of
excellence, and her ability to develop genuine connections with students as a national model for
others to emulate. I recommend her enthusiastically for CSCA School Counselor of the Year!

Sincerely,
Linda Bostic
Peak to Peak High School Counselor
Current Peak to Peak Parent

More Community Heroes:

PEN Community Hero Debbie BrinleyDebbie Brinley

PEN nominates Fairview parent, Debbie Brinley and Fairview's "Lesson Stress Community Work Group" as our PEN Community Heroes! Along with Marilyn Fausset Brown and Richelle Mein, Debbie founded the "Lesson Stress Community Work Group" to address the high levels of stress and anxiety at the school. With more than 40 parents in their Work Group now, this group has focused on identifying specific stressors in the school and in the classroom and making positive suggestions to the administration for positive and productive change.

For example, they successfully altered the way in which body weight is measured in a fitness class by assuring it is done privately rather than in the presence of others. The group has reframed the "message" at Fairview to make it more inclusive and more welcoming to all students, not just the top scholars or the top athletes. In addition, the group is working on addressing stress around homework and around the use of drugs and alcohol at the school. In an effort to support the Fairview administrative staff in incorporating mindfulness practices into the school community, they are providing information to parents through short lectures and a book club. Also, the group is now working on a webpage containing resources for parents on a myriad of topics related to stress reduction.

Debbie now serves on the board of the Fairview Parent Organization as both the PEN representative and the Lessen Stress Community Working Group representative. The Fairvew administration, teachers and parent body have been extremely supportive and receptive to the Lessen Stress Community Working Group's efforts. Debbie's passion, initiative, and desire for all students to feel good about themselves and have opportunities to succeed is an inspiration to our community.

Thank you Debbie for all that you do for Fairview and the Boulder Community.

Debbie Brinley –"PEN embodies what everyone knows— schools with high levels of parental involvement fare better than schools with less parental involvement. PEN provides valuable resources to the parent community in the form of education, training and support for parents wanting to be part of their school community. PEN is widely known for its stellar lectures and presentations provided free or at low cost to parents. But, PEN is so much more. PEN also supports parents volunteering in schools by providing information to them as to how to work with administrators, how to start programs in their school and how to recruit and work with other volunteers and make their school a safer, happier and more communal place. PEN is a well respected among parents, teachers and school administrators and the district administration. The volunteers and staff at PEN are truly dedicated to improving the connection between parents and the school and have made a tremendous difference in the lives of many families."