School Counselor Spotlight: Brian Griffith, ELMS
Published on 2/3/16
Expeditionary Learning School
As part of National School Counseling Week, the Syracuse City School District is recognizing select school counselors who go above and beyond to guide the students at their schools.
In Brian Gibbs-Griffith’s mind, he didn’t choose the field of school counseling. “Fortunately, the field chose me,” Griffith says.
As a middle school counselor at ELMS (Expeditionary Learning Middle School) in Syracuse, Mr. Gibbs-Griffith is known affectionately as “Mr. GG.” His programs include the ELMS after school program, enrichment classes and the ELMS Outdoor Education and Leadership Program. His day starts at 7am and his work impacts more than 160 students. It can be a grind but it’s a grind he knows all too well.
Griffith’s counseling journey started back in 1996 in Greenville, South Carolina.
He’d just graduated from SUNY Fredonia and was waiting restaurant tables to put himself through school. Recently married and ready to get field experience, Griffith began working at a treatment center for recovering teens—and ended up staying for 10 years.
“I started experiential learning activities to break through barriers with kids,” says Griffith. “I just really began to observe teenager after teenager and the power of a relationship and growth.”
Griffith was promoted to program director, often ending up on call 24/7 and dealing with some of the toughest counseling cases possible. After the birth of his second child, he and his wife decided it was time to come home to Central New York.
That’s when he found the Syracuse City School District and the power of working with middle school students.
“When they come to middle school they start growing out of that innocence and coming into personal responsibility for themselves and their education,” says Griffith. “But still they are so playful, they’re personable. They’re ready to hear what you’re teaching.”
Griffith’s ability to teach and encourage students through all kinds of challenges is why he’s so appreciated during National School Counselor Appreciation Week.
“He is doing great work supporting the students who are LGBTQ and those who were bullied at other schools,” says Tracy Jackson, Supervisor of Counseling and Guidance Services.
Griffith knows from being a father and a counselor, that staying connected is key. He encourages parents to do the same.
“Stay plugged into their lives just as much as they were at 2, 3, 4 and 5 years old,” he says. “Have intentional conversations, know where they’re peer group is. Know the media, especially what’s going on in their digital world.”
And if school counseling has taught him anything, it’s that kids can—and will change.
“At the end of the day the final chapter for these kids and babies we work with has not been written,” says Griffith.
“I have nothing but admiration and respect for all my colleagues at SCSD. Years later we see how well they’re doing— that’s when we have those moments where we realize that we really were a seed.”
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