Eclectic Middle School counselor Cynthia Collier’s journey from Elmore County High School to earning a master’s in counseling at Auburn University Montgomery is a story of encouragement she uses to paint a picture of the future for her students.
“I did not really have a set plan when I graduated from high school here in Eclectic,” she said. “A friend of mine went to (Central Alabama Community College) in Alex City on a choral scholarship. Choral was kind of a hobby for me, and I ended up actually receiving a scholarship to attend CACC in the choral group there.”
She said she likes to tell her students her experiences because it can encourage students to look at their futures in a positive light.
“I was the first kid in my household to go to college and get a college degree,” Collier said. “I didn’t really even have a plan to do that but it happened on a whim. I think it shows that anyone can do this. It does not matter if you’re the first one in your family to go to college or your grades were not perfect. You can go to college and get a degree.”
Collier, who is in her 13th year as a counselor, holds three degrees — an associate’s from CACC and a bachelor’s and a master’s from AUM.
She began her career as a physical education teacher and junior varsity basketball and volleyball in 2001 at EMS.
“I wanted to get back to school to get a master’s degree,” Collier said. “As I was here coaching female middle school students I was also doing a lot of lay counseling sessions. I did a lot of talking to students about situations they were going through.”
Those experiences led Collier to earn a degree in counseling where she could use those skills to impact an entire school of students.
“Being from Eclectic is huge,” she said. “Being able to live and teach in the area here allows me the opportunity to really relate with students. I can share with them how things have changed and evolved and how some things are still the same.”
She said the job comes with many rewarding opportunities and some challenges.
“I get to watch them grow from the elementary school mindset to the junior high mindset,” Collier said. “There are a lot of changes that take place during that period. It’s a bumpy road sometimes.
“All of our teachers play a role in helping our students. I love being one of the people here that students can count on when they hit those bumps in the road.”
She said middle school students are at the age where they really need guidance beyond just focusing on making good grades.
“There are so many more things going on in their lives,” Collier said. “The avenues that social media has opened up for these students is concerning. They are not ready to have everything at their fingertips just yet.”
According to Collier, no two days are the same and most days have a fast pace.
“Being one school counselor on campus it does not matter what I plan, something else may land in my lap,” she said. “We may get a new student from Mexico or we may get a new student placed in a home by (the department of human resources). It is kind of hard to know what lies ahead for the day.
“I never know if a student is going to be upset that day from the loss of a relative or something is going on. On one hand it is exciting, on the other hand it is sometimes hard to plan.”