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Meet Lori Davis: High School Counselor

Lori Davis thinks back on her own children’s school years and recalls the challenges a family faces. “I sat in the counselor’s office like so many of the parents who come into mine and asked, ‘What do I do?’ I wanted to understand them better.” That’s when she decided to pursue her master’s degree in counseling. A systems analyst by training, this new field would push her to grow as a person and a professional. It would also give her the opportunity to move into a role that is at the heartbeat of GAC’s high school--the counseling community--where she has been a fixture for the last 15 years. Today she is one of four full time, high school counselors responsible for 700-750 students and also serves as the counseling chair. 

A large part of Lori’s work is college counseling and it’s a little bit like spring training. Counselors meet with parents and students individually early each spring to come up with a game plan to finish strong for the coming year. Lori believes that in the Junior year, it’s really important to identify a student’s goals and begin to refine a list of colleges to meet the priorities set by each student and family.  The list has to be balanced and should include schools that will be good academic, social, and financial fits. They want a student’s college choice to meet his or her needs, both inside and outside the classroom.  “Our goal is that by the time students are making final college decisions in March-May of their senior year, they will have a variety of colleges to choose from where they can be happy and successful. And I firmly believe that we can find a fit for everyone.

This year, GAC graduated 186 students that Lori and her team worked with intensely over the previous four years. The time the counselors invest to make sure that each student is successful is astonishing. And the results are telling: 100% of students were admitted to a 4-year college. Students in the class of 2018 were accepted to 183 different universities, with 67 matriculations, and earned nearly $18 million in scholarships.

“It’s more than just getting in. It’s about fit. That’s crucial.” Lori encounters students who find their fit the moment they step onto a certain campus, or they may know quickly when it’s not the right fit.  Some students realize they will do better at a smaller college, while others prioritize a college where specific programs are offered. Lori and her team are able to identify these best-fit schools due to their years of specialized experience and their insight into a student’s strengths. One student, Rebecca Buechler, was able to attend the University of Georgia as Foundation Fellow, in part due to guidance from Lori and our other counselors. This fellowship opened up many opportunities for her, including the chance to study at Oxford University. Says Buechler, “I can’t help but be thankful to GAC and its counselors for introducing me to a scholarship program that I would never have applied to on my own, one which has certainly changed my life.” GAC students attend a wide range of colleges, from the most selective Ivy leagues and private schools, to state schools, schools of faith, and highly specialized opportunities in the arts.

Parents find that their students are more successful in school, in large part because of Lori and her team. But it’s not just about being successful academically. Lori and her team are concerned with the whole child.  “Our role as counselors is to help remove obstacles to education and student potential, whether due to differences in learning style, social-emotional concerns, or even environmental. Each day, one of our counselors is on-site during lunch to be with the students during their downtime. We want to be able to see our students interacting.  Hopefully, we will notice if someone might need a little of our time. Often this student might not come to our offices themselves. Many students do come to our offices for many different reasons.” The counseling holds regular advisory periods with small groups of students with a faculty member where they meet and talk about different issues. “We talk with students about kindness and resiliency, about the concerns they have or things they deal with at this age -- including keeping on track with their day to day responsibilities, as well as risky behavior, internet safety, dating and boundaries, how we treat each other.”

Lori has an open door policy, and in her office, one finds a couple of signs. The first sign has Jeremiah 29:11 written on it: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She points this out to her students whenever test results don’t look as promising as they would like and they become discouraged, even tearful. Another sign in her office says, “What you say in this room stays in this room.” Students seek her out and they know she will always be available, whether they need a hug or an encouraging text. Sometimes a student needs more and might meet for a coffee run after school hours and time to chat at the Starbucks across the street. Nothing seems to be too much for Lori, and her heart for her students becomes evident in large ways and small. It’s no surprise that Lori was awarded the Educator of the Year for the High School this past May. “No task is too big or too small for Lori Davis, and we appreciate her humility and commitment to excellence”, says High School Principal Shane Woodward.

Lori is proud of how far all of her students have come, especially her own son and daughter who are GAC Alumni. Her son recently graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and is now an Orthopedic Resident,  and her daughter is in entering her senior year at Georgia College and is applying for graduate school in Occupational Therapy. Both are grounded in their faith which was nurtured through their years at GAC. Lori frequently tells parents that she wants to work with their child the way that she did with her own.  No matter the child, parents can trust that Lori will always be their biggest advocate.