Hebrew name: Rachel
Currently living in: Salem
Alma maters: Peabody Veterans Memorial High School ’08, UMass Amherst ’12, Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development ’16
Job: Guidance counselor, Landmark School, Beverly
Favorite food: Thai
Favorite music: Right now, Lizzo.
Favorite movies: I love anything that will make me cry – “Titanic” might be my favorite of all time.
Favorite TV shows: “Fleabag,” “Ozark,” “Lost,” “Girls”
Favorite travel destination: Italy
Somewhere you’d like to go next: Greece, South Africa
Favorite North Shore spot: All the breweries in Salem: Notch Brewery, Far From the Tree. Oh, and Bagel World.
Favorite Jewish people not in your family: Larry David, Bernie Sanders
Favorite Jewish holiday: Yom Kippur
What was your Jewish background growing up?
My family was very much Reform. I went to Hebrew school, and I went to Temple Beth Shalom [now Tiferet Shalom] in Peabody, just for High Holidays. I went to Hebrew school for a couple of years, and I was more culturally Jewish, I would say. I was bat mitzvahed, and I was involved in my religion. I was in Young Judaea when I was maybe in middle school – that was a Jewish youth group that would meet at the temple, and we would go on retreats twice a year. I went on Y2I in high school, and that was great. I went to UMass, and I went to the Hillel maybe a couple times, but I kind of lost touch with it. And then I went on Birthright five or six years ago, and I connected so much – I loved Birthright, and I got re-bat mitzvahed at the Wailing Wall. I felt more spiritually connected on Birthright, just to believe in something. We break out the menorah on Hanukkah, my family celebrates Passover and my husband broke the glass on our wedding, even though he’s not Jewish, so here and there, traditions come up.
How did you become a guidance counselor at the Landmark School?
I majored in psychology in college, and then I worked for my sister’s store [Bobbles and Lace] for a couple years and I was like, I don’t know what I’m gonna do with my life, and then I thought I wanted to work with teenagers in some capacity, so I went to grad school and became a guidance counselor. Landmark is a school for students with language-based learning disabilities, so the primary disability is dyslexia, but you wouldn’t really know anything is wrong with them, because they’re socially typical, so I help them with the college process, and I help them find the best match for after high school, which is kind of tricky, because they need a lot of support. There is definitely a socioemotional component – just helping kids navigate the anxiety of school and learning disability.
You also worked at a public high school. Was that a very different experience than Landmark?
Yes – there’s five mental health counselors, four guidance counselors, every kid gets an academic adviser, so there’s so many layers of support at Landmark, and at a public school, there’s usually one psychologist, a couple of guidance counselors. Half the kids at Landmark are funded by their school district, so we get a lot of kids who weren’t making any progress in public school, and that’s why they come to Landmark. In the fall we work with seniors, and in the winter, we work with juniors, so at the very moment I’m working with about 30 seniors. I’ll check in with them each week to see how school’s going, we’ll look at their list, we’ll go through applications, so right now that’s what we’re doing. That’s all October is.
Do you think the college admissions process is getting increasingly stressful, and if so, what can be done about it?
It’s about 10 times more intense. I think it’s a combination of social media and anxiety and kids comparing each other to one another – it’s kind of crazy. We see a lot of meltdowns, but Landmark does a great job providing the necessary supports. It helps a lot to meet with the students. Many of them will meet with me and then go to the counselors if they’re dealing with their mental health. It’s senior year, which is always so stressful because there’s a lot of work in classes, and kids are involved in sports, and work, and after-school activities. It’s a lot, but the number one thing I do is let them talk, let them vent, and if they need to break down, that’s fine, and then just try to reassure them that everything’s going to turn out fine in the end. It always turns out fine.