New Trust Counselor Arrives at Miami High, Promoting Mental Health

Miami+High%27s+New+TRUST+counselor%2C+Ms.+Luberto%2C+is+introducing+a+transformative+practice+called+a+%22restorative+circle.%22+She+believes+it+will+allow+students+to+feel+safe+without+the+fear+of+punishment.

Miami High's New TRUST counselor, Ms. Luberto, is introducing a transformative practice called a "restorative circle." She believes it will allow students to feel safe without the fear of punishment.

By Yaneilys Ayuso

More often than not, there are lines of students trailing out of the offices of guidance counselors. While many may be there for something as simple as a schedule change, others may actually be in need of support involving their mental health or concerns with their well-being. This school year, Miami High has welcomed a new TRUST counselor to assist with these matters.

 

The role of the trust counselor

The responsibility of a TRUST counselor is far different from that of any guidance counselor we’ve seen at Miami High. Chairperson of the student services department Mr. Cuevas says the role of a TRUST counselor is exactly what it sounds like – to be an adult that students are able to trust and bring forward issues that they face in their personal lives.

“TRUST counselors serve as a bridge between school and mental health organizations and resources outside of school,” Mr. Cuevas stated. “They can provide students with access to individual or group counseling services and are here for students’ mental well-being more than to help with their academic choices and situations.”

 

Miami High’s history of TRUST counselors

     According to Mr. Cuevas, Miami High last had a TRUST counselor nearly twenty years ago when current ESE teacher Ms. Avila served in that role. The district got rid of that position because of budget cuts after deciding that the position of a TRUST counselor was not necessary in all schools.

However, after the district recently faced pressure from students, teachers, parents, community members, and the Power U organization because of its lack of support for students’ mental health, the district mandated that a TRUST counselor be placed in each school.

 

Our new TRUST counselor

Miami High’s new TRUST counselor Ms. Luberto has been a counselor within the school system for four years. She is also the assistant coach for the girls’ basketball team at Miami High. She was recommended to the school principal through other staff members and promptly began her work here in December.

Ms. Luberto says that in order to be a TRUST counselor you must have a master’s degree in social work and/or mental health. She states that she has met with many students at Miami High already, and her experiences with them have gone well.

Her goal is to provide support and resources to as many students as possible this year, claiming that students do not need to set up an appointment with her and may just walk in to her office when they are in need of support.

Ms. Luberto also states that she is introducing a new transformative practice to Miami High called a restorative circle. When two or more students are in conflict with each other, Ms. Luberto talks to all parties and encourages them to speak with each other after gaining their consent. She believes this allows for students to come to a common ground in a safe space where punishments, that would otherwise be punitive, would not be a concern for students.

“I am here to provide students the support they need; I am not the disciplinarian,” she said.

 

How have students benefited from having a TRUST counselor?

     Unfortunately, not many students are even aware that Miami High has a TRUST counselor or even what a TRUST counselor is. Ms. Luberto believes that starting her work later in the school year prevented her from introducing herself to students and establishing those relationships early on. She is currently relying on teachers to refer students to her in order to meet with as many students as possible.

Students who have been able to meet with her, have had varying experiences. An anonymous junior spoke about not being given adequate support during a rough patch she was going through.

“My experience with the TRUST counselor isn’t what I thought it would’ve been,” she said.

An anonymous senior also went to the TRUST counselor to speak on an incident that involved her being harassed by someone. The student feels that the situation wasn’t handled appropriately or with care.

“I didn’t feel like she was sympathetic towards the issue or considerate of my feelings,” the senior stated.

Ms. Luberto responds that the people involved in the situation said she handled the situation appropriately after having gone to other faculty members who they felt didn’t handle it well. However, she understands why this student may have felt this way.

“I could definitely see how my words may have come across in the way that this student said they did,” Ms. Luberto conceded. “It wasn’t my intention to come off that way, but I understand how what I said could’ve been misinterpreted.”

Other students have noticed how much Ms. Luberto has improved during her time here, however. Senior Sophia Silva said that the TRUST counselor uses the feedback she gets from students to become a better counselor every day.

“She cares about how students see her and how they feel about talking to her. When I have anxiety attacks, she always asks how I’m doing rather than what’s wrong with me. She understands how to make students feel more comfortable about opening up.”

Sophomore Naharayim Gonzalez and Junior Kiara Cruz agree that Ms. Luberto’s office is a safe space for them. Gonzalez said, “I feel comfortable talking to her about personal issues.”

Cruz stated, “She’s really helpful and understanding; she’s someone I have a lot of trust in.”