Spotlights

School Counselor Profile: Courtiney Jacobs, Towson High School

02/08/2018

School Counselor Profile: Courtiney Jacobs, Towson High School

When school counselor Courtiney Jacobs was in the third grade, her teacher told her that she would never graduate.

Now Jacobs sits in her office at Towson High School, with her second master’s degree hanging over her desk, and she devotes to her energy to conveying the opposite message to her students. She challenges her students to dream bigger and reach higher. Aside from her personal degree, pennants for colleges across the country cover her walls.

“I believe in the students,” Jacobs says. “If a student tells me that she wants to be an astronaut, I help her figure out how to achieve that goal.”

From Baltimore, across the country, back to Baltimore

Born in Baltimore, Jacobs is a self-described Army brat, who grew up in North Carolina, Utah, and Arizona before her family returned to Baltimore. It was in North Carolina that her Grade 3 teacher attempted to doom her future. After a brief stint in special education courses, Jacobs’ learning disability was identified and, with appropriate accommodations, she was moved back into general education classes. By the time, Jacobs graduated from Edmondson-Westside High School in Baltimore City, she was fifth in her class.

She continued her education, as a first generation college student, studying nursing at Delaware State and then transferring to Coppin State University and earning a bachelor’s degree in health information management. While earning a master’s degree in human services administration at the University of Baltimore, she concentrated in family counseling, and “fell in love” with the counseling aspect. When she finished that degree, she went to Loyola University Maryland to complete a master’s degree in education, school counseling.

As she completed her graduate degrees, she worked in the largest homeless shelter in Baltimore City and, toward the end of her studies, she completed a 600-hour internship at Parkville High School from January – May 2017.

Finding the road to inspire

While at Parkville, Jacobs met a student who said she wanted to become a neurosurgeon, but that she didn’t know any black neurosurgeons. That made the student feel like her goal might be unattainable. Jacobs quickly connected the student to a friend studying to become a neurosurgeon, and she was excited by how much of a difference it made to the Parkville student to talk to the future doctor.

That interaction motivated Jacobs to create her recently established Road to Inspire Instagram account, one of her many community service projects. Through Road to Inspire, she “highlights professionals of color so that students of color can see themselves in the fields they dream to be in.”

Since August 2017, Jacobs has been in the field she aspired to as one of four school counselors at Towson High. She is assigned to work with students whose last names begin with Q-Z.

Helping students discover their own way

“Two of the main things I find myself working on with students are anxiety and organization,” Jacobs says. “Everyone can achieve their goals. Everyone just learns differently, and once you understand the way that you learn, you can succeed. I try to focus my work on that.” Jacobs describes herself as a “huge advocate” for students with learning disabilities.

“I can give students a new perspective and outlook,” Jacobs continues. “Someone thought I wasn’t going to make it, and I have. I love to share with students that there are opportunities to go to college no matter what – even if you don’t have the highest SAT scores or GPAs.”

She says that she recently wrote letters to her seniors who have not yet applied to college, reminding them of the options available to them.

"Ms. Jacobs is appreciated for her positive energy,” says Towson High Principal Charlene DiMino. “She believes that all students can reach success. Her enthusiasm is appreciated as she leads a variety of collective and individual sessions to support students within and outside the classroom setting. Our school counseling team consistently strives to support the growth and development of the whole child. They understand the value of nurturing the social and emotional development of our students to enhance their academic experience."

Jacobs says that there is no typical day for her at Towson, but in general they begin with helping to lead a restorative homeroom, and end with leading cheerleading practices and performances. The restorative homeroom, led by Principal Charlene DiMino, social worker Jennifer Yelton, and Jacobs, provides extra support to a group of students needing extra attention. “We use the morning period to help the students get settled and organized and work on specific skills that need to be strengthened.”

Along with English teacher Kelly Alexander, Jacobs coaches the school’s squad of 27 cheerleaders. Cheerleading has been a part of her life since she was 5. She coached Coppin Academy High School and Woodlawn Falcons Rec teams from 2009-2013 and is the former cheer commissioner for Pop Warner Cheer and Dance for Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.  

Between homeroom and cheer

Between homeroom and cheer, the remainder of Jacobs’ workday is spent meeting with students individually, running groups, and helping with situations that arise.

“My goal,” Jacobs says, “is to see all of my students multiple times throughout the school year. Besides appointments in my office, I try to talk to them during lunch, in the hallway, after school… Sometimes I randomly call them down to see if they are on track.”

Jacobs believes that her childhood as an Army brat has been helpful in her life and her work as a school counselor. “I had to learn how to adapt to new situations,” she says. “I learned to be reserved at first, to scope things out for before jumping in. That helps with every situation. I also learned how to interact with everyone. Now, I enjoy helping new people make connections.”

When Jacobs is not at Towson High, she enjoys planning weddings for her friends and doing community service work with her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and on her own.

Back at school, Jacobs is an advisor to the school’s Black Student Union and Ladies of Distinction.

A busy Black History Month

The Black Student Union is especially busy this month, planning schoolwide activities in honor Black History Month, including:

  • A bulletin board honoring the month and daily Black History Month facts shared in the morning announcements
  • A movie night showing “Get Out," an Oscar nominee for best picture. The event is open to Towson High students and staff only. Tickets are $3 each and include pizza, wings, and drinks – all donated by Dominos. Thursday, Feb. 8, at 5 p.m.
  • A field trip to Great Blacks in Wax Museum. Friday, Feb. 16
  • A Black History Assembly featuring Jarrett Carter, founder of HBCU Digest; Darin Allen, renowned photographer; and Kwame Alston, the first African American Student Government Association president at Hopkins in 15 years. In addition, the Alphas and AKAs will give a step performance and a brief talk about Greek life. Friday, Feb. 23, from 8 – 9 a.m.

Jacobs’ Ladies of Distinction group is an empowerment enrichment group for Towson’s African American girls. “We talk about ways to have courageous conversations and how to build positive relationships with other students,” Jacobs says. At the conclusion of the group’s first semester, Jacobs surveyed the 15 members to assess the impact of the initiative. Students reported that they were better able to start new relationships, talk to new people, and engage more frequently in class. The group will soon open its enrollment to a large number of members.

One theme to emerge so far in Jacobs’ young life is just how wrong her Grade 3 teacher was. Jacobs not only graduated – from high school and college and two graduate schools – she is determined to inspire this and future generations to graduate and succeed.

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