Guidance counselor Cindy Dalrymple was explaining to a student how the work she does now will affect her in the future.
She said 13-year-old Talyah Chaires is a good student with perfect attendance and no disciplinary referrals. Colleges and future employers will look favorably on that history.
“You get the job done and you do it with a pleasant disposition,” said Dalrymple, who works at Central Park International Magnet School.
Chaires had transferred to Central Park this year, and one of the purposes of the meeting was to see how the transition is going.
Talking about academics with students and helping eighth-graders look ahead to high school classes are among the many responsibilities of Dalrymple, who is in her 26th year with the Schenectady City School District.
Dalrymple said the school takes a team approach, with administrators, counselors, social workers and teachers all looking out for students’ well-being. The staff tries to help the students determine how their actions in school affect their future.
Counselors also work one-on-one with the students to teach them about study skills and organization and motivation, which are difficult concepts for middle-schoolers.
“We have very, very talented students here. We really do. It’s just helping them reach their potential,” Dalrymple said.
Sometimes, students just need an adult to talk to about academic struggles at school, problems at home or conflicts with their peers, she said.
“Just the stressors of the age, there’s a lot of challenges out there now,” she said.
During the course of a workday, Dalrymple may be doing anything from helping a student plan next year’s class schedule to mediating a dispute between students at lunchtime.
“There really isn’t a typical day,” she said.
On a recent day, Dalrymple and colleague Erin Larkin met with classes to discuss the code of conduct.
“How many of you heard of the code of conduct?” Dalrymple asked a sixth-grade class. Not many hands went up. When Dalrymple asked what students thought it meant, one student helpfully suggested that it referred to rules.
“Maybe it has something to do about what happens if you don’t follow the rules,” Dalrymple said.
Dalrymple also asked the students why the two sixth-grade classes cannot sit together at lunchtime anymore. The answer: they were too noisy and there was too much “drama.”
She said students should behave themselves and maybe they will be able to sit with their peers again.
“We can’t just fix this for you. We need you to help us fix it,” she said.
Dalrymple, 52, said she took a different path toward becoming a guidance counselor. For the first three years of her career, she was a counselor at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
While she says that experience honed her skills, she wanted to work with children, following in the footsteps of her father, a teacher at Guilderland.
Her colleagues had high praise for Dalrymple. Guidance office secretary Monica Adams called her “one in a million,” saying that Dalrymple is a great role model and has a great rapport with children.
“They listen to her. They really engage,” she said.
Principal Tonya Federico said Dalrymple contributes more to the school than just her guidance duties.
She helps come up with ideas to improve student support services and helps serve as a liaison between parents and the school. She also organizes the schedule for state testing and assists classroom teachers in grading state tests.
“I don’t know what I would do without her,” she said.
Dalrymple is great at mediating disputes — not just between students but staff as well, Federico said.
“She can always find something positive regardless of the situation,” she said.
Dalrymple said working with the families and the students is the best part about being at the school: “They are the job. They are what I’m here for.”