Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Person of the Week

Helping Local Youth (and Parents) Through Trying Times


As a longtime advocate for local youth, Marcy Beatty has coordinated the free, virtual The Transition to College Workshop on Tuesday, June 28. Photo courtesy of College Matters

As a longtime advocate for local youth, Marcy Beatty has coordinated the free, virtual The Transition to College Workshop on Tuesday, June 28. (Photo courtesy of College Matters)

The transition from high school to college, or even just from high school to work, trade school, or job is an exciting time for many grads, but it can also be a time of great anxiety and uncertainty as well. Marcy Beatty has had several careers, but after serving with Madison Youth & Family Services for a decade and then getting her college counseling certification from UCLA, Marcy has dedicated herself to helping students make the leap into adulthood and the challenges that come with that change.

Her latest effort will bring Leah Nelson of the Jordan Porco Foundation to speak about The Transition to College Workshop in a free virtual event on Tuesday, June 28.

Marcy had several different careers, but her main focus for more than a decade has been as an education counselor.

“I worked with Madison Youth & Family Services for 10 years focusing on positive youth development in that position. But that work was a really nice fit for what I wanted to do next. I then started with College Matters in 2017,” says Marcy. “I went back to school to the UCLA program in college counseling and got my certification in that and then joined College Matters. I have enjoyed every minute of it.”

Marcy says her work at College Matters, an independent educational counseling service for students seeking advice and help with the post-high school education, is incredibly rewarding.

“High school age kids are a population that really enjoy working with,” says Marcy. “This period is a tough time in any student’s career or life path, and we’ve obviously, through the pandemic, have seen a rise in anxiety and depression, even in our small sample size of students, so we’ve been trying to do more with that transition to college. That’s what we focus on, is trying to find the right fit for our students and getting them to places hopefully where they can thrive.

“I think there is a mythology around this that when students get to college or higher education programs—that everything is going to be perfect and that just isn’t the case. This is a huge transition for families, and even more so now with all of these challenges that have arisen,” says Marcy.

Marcy says she had recently attended a forum where Leah Nelson of the Jordan Porco Foundation (a Connecticut-based suicide prevention and mental health resource non-profit) spoke about some of these issues and Marcy says she wanted to bring this critical information to the general public. Marcy’s dedication has resulted in the creation of a free virtual seminar for parents and students making the transition to college, trades, and life beyond high school.

The event, sponsored by College Matters and hosted by the Porco Foundation, will provide parents and students with information and skills to help navigate what can be a very complex and nuanced period in their lives, Marcy says.

“I saw Leah’s workshop sponsored by Guilford Youth & Family Services several months ago, and I was very impressed with Leah and her positive messages around this transitioning, practicing resilience and good mental health,” says Marcy. “I felt it was very important to bring this to a wider audience.”

When I saw Leah’s program, I knew...we had to sponsor it and offer it to the larger community, just as a way to help with this issue that only seems to be mushrooming, in terms of improving the mental health of these kids. We know a lot more kids are struggling,” she says, “so it is even more important to reach out to the community to try and provide some of these resources to families.”

Marcy says that the excitement of college, or a gap year, or even just moving into young adulthood needs to be balanced with the reality of what striking out on one’s own can actually entail.

“It is really important for kids not to expect troubles, but to understand that there will be bumps in the road, and that they are not alone,” says Marcy. “What I really liked about Leah’s workshop is that she promotes very concrete, practical steps that kids can take on how to cope, how to build resilience, and importantly how seek support if you can’t do it alone. There is a focus on dealing with things earlier before they become big things.”

According to Marcy, she thinks parents and students will come away from the seminar with a better sense of preparation of how this period might unfold for them, and with the knowledge that there is help available.

“For students I hope that they will reset their expectations for college, knowing that there is going to be a transition and that is not always going to be easy, but that they will get through it and that there are people there to help them get through it,” she says. “We want kids to know that they can adjust and thrive and overcome many of the issues that this transition forces them to encounter.

“For parents...it’s about being more proactive and building on some of these coping skills and problem-solving skills with their kids earlier,” Marcy says. “And Leah does such a great job of expressing that in a practical and concrete way. For example, even something as small as communicating about communicating with your student about these issues is an important step in setting expectations—how to build independence for students, so that when they get to college, students have some concept of financial independence, practical independence, time management skills…development of these allow students to be a little further on their way to being fully independent.”

Marcy says this transition time can obviously be very difficult for students, but is compounded by social media and other influences that drive home an unrealistic portrayal of college life. A recent conversation with a former student was revealing as to the impact this can have.

“This can very hard for everybody, but the thing that is most compelling is social media. Everybody is posting pictures showing how much fun they are having, and this student says she did the same thing, but did that more as a way to fit in,” she says. “Seeing others posting images, which we know are not truly representative of what may or may not be occurring for any one individual, that is a very powerful force for a young student to fighting against.”

“Things have changed so quickly and this issue is continuing to morph and change,” Marcy says. “Social media is so prevalent and such a force in their lives, that balance in some form is critical. Providing some tools to these students to help ground them better is essential in what we do.”

The Workshop

The Transition to College Workshop, sponsored by College Matters and presented by Leah Nelson of the Jordan Porco Foundation is a free virtual event to be held Tuesday, June 28 at 7 p.m. To register, visit www.college-matters.com or email info@college-matters.com for more information.

Nelson graduated from the UConn with a degree in human development and family studies and has more than 10 years of experience in student mental health programming. She joined the Jordan Porco Foundation as its first employee in 2012 and now serves as the director of programs, overseeing the organization’s critical mental health and suicide prevention programs.

The Jordan Porco Foundation is a non-profit with a mission to prevent suicide, promote mental health, and create a message of hope for young adults. The organization was founded by Ernie and Marisa Porco in memory of their son Jordan, who took his own life in 2011 during his college freshman year. For more information, visit www.rememberingjordan.org or contact info@jordanporcofoundation.org or 860-904-6041.

If you or someone you know is in an immediate mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255, or the Crisis Text Line-text HOME to 741741. Teens can also text the Teen Line; text TEEN to 839863 to speak to other teens with similar experiences and questions.

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