Counseling department expands

Kyla Miller poses alongside students with the Zero Reasons Why campaign poster.

Kyla Miller poses alongside students with the ‘Zero Reasons Why’ campaign poster.

Caileane Thurston, Reporter

NHS has officially named a new therapist for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year and for future years, Kyla Miller. While there are many social workers and other counselors currently employed and working in the department, Miller’s position is aimed at serving specifically school-based addiction services. 

Miller says she has always wanted to be a social worker in a school setting. When she was informed about the position within her agency Mirror INC, she felt that it was her calling. Mirror, Inc is a non-profit who specializes in behavioral health care, alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs and correctional re-entry services. She says she was drawn to the position here at the high school due to the school’s culture and environment. She also states that one of her main focuses in this new position is to be a voice for people who do not have one, and want to be seen and heard. 

“My passion for mental health, passion to be a voice for people who do not have a voice [and my] drive and compassion for students to see someone who looks like them [makes me the perfect candidate for this position],” Miller said. “Growing up, we did not have a therapist in our district let alone a therapist who also is working in substance misuse.”

Miller has been involved with the district, prior to working specifically in the building as a therapist, by coaching middle school track and basketball. According to the Healthline, a therapist gives you an opportunity to explore your thoughts, feelings, emotions and just having someone to talk to. Additionally, therapists can help someone release panic, anxiety, stress and worry. 

“I am a survivor of domestic violence, rape, and suicide. I also grew up in a single parent home and in poverty. All of these experiences have shaped my perspective on life and guided my passion for mental health,” Miller said. 

Miller says that the thing she is looking forward to most is being there for everyone and being available to all students and staff. She believes that the most challenging aspect of her job will be the process of defining her role in this new position to staff and students. Since this role has not previously been held, she must start from the ground up building its importance in the school setting. While she foresees this as a tricky thing to accomplish, she also believes that is why she will be a perfect fit for the position.

“I am an advocate for all students. I will fight for a student who may not feel that they are worth fighting for. I have a huge heart to help and advocate for change,” Miller said. 

Taylor Lewis, another social worker at the high school moved to Newton approximately five years ago, and traveled to work in other districts for four years. When the social worker position opened at NHS she was very excited for the opportunity to serve her own community. 

“I am passionate about mental health and creating connections. During my interview, I was excited about the dynamics between the administration and counselors and their focus on a team mindset,” Lewis said.

Lewis states that she is most excited about exploring opportunities to educate students and parents about mental health. Occasionally, she is given the opportunity to speak directly with classes about self care and the role it can play in one’s mental well being. However, Lewis is wanting to find more ways to normalize mental health in addition to these speeches. With her position, Lewis is able to provide mental health services to students as well as refer and help create connections to other agencies within our community. 

“I make a lot of referrals to outside agencies for various reasons: food assistance, mental health, physical health, rent/utilizes, support groups, clothing/hygiene, etc. I am here to support whatever need someone may need, without judgement. I am a very flexible person and work with each student on an individual basis. I know not everyone functions the same. I work with students for a variety of reasons: depression, anxiety, stress (in school and out), self-worth, grief, and many more reasons. My counseling style is to be compassionate and nurturing while also providing straightforward feedback,” Lewis said.

Lewis is looking forward to getting to know more students and staff throughout this and coming years. Since she has always worked out of town since moving to Newton she has enjoyed making new friendships and learning about the resources available in the community during her time at NHS. 

“I am part of the counseling department which includes Mrs. Crittenden, Ms Gordon, Mr. Leake, and Mrs. Pringle. I am also involved with the GEI process, this includes working with teachers, counselors, parents, students, and administrators. My services are considered Tier 3 support, meaning I take referrals from counselors and admin. I encourage students to connect with their counselor first. The counselors are amazing at helping students and knowing when to refer,” Lewis said.

Since Lewis cares so deeply about all the students at NHS, she says it can be hard at times not taking those big emotions home. She is always looking for ways to “fill her cup”, meaning regulate herself, as well as finding ways to release her uneasiness. For her, that sometimes means doing a fun game with her family, connecting with friends and coworkers, exercising, or finding a creative outlet. She encourages students to find their own creative outlets when encountering a tough situation.

“Coming from a mental health background, it can have a different perspective in meetings and offer insight to students experiencing trauma or a mental health diagnosis. I am also able to provide direct therapy to students,” Lewis said.