Counseling department shifts gears

Chris Lorenz takes on a new role as the sole college counselor


Ashlyn Gillespie

Explaining how to request high school transcripts for the college application, college counselor Chris Lorenz leads a senior class meeting for English teacher Diana Lurkins’ AP Literature class. West High transitioned the counseling department to create a single college counselor, following in the footsteps of the other four Parkway high schools. “I love working with high school [students], coming of age, moving from being a child to an adult. I’m helping individuals through that transition, which encompasses an understanding of themselves and their passions are as they leave high school and go off to do bigger and better things,” Lorenz said.

Common App. Essay Writing. ACT Optional. Applying to the college of your dreams can span months. Students don’t have to figure out this world alone. Counselors are readily available. 

Dedicated to supporting and guiding high school students, counselors provide advice spanning academic, career, social and emotional areas. As of June 1, 2022, the counseling department released an email detailing a shift in their model. Instead of five counselors splitting the student body alphabetically, the department would give four counselors the traditional alphabetical role and dedicate one counselor to the college adviser. Out of the five, counselor Chris Lorenz wanted to make the shift. 

“The opportunity first [arrived] when the conversation came to the department about shifting to this model. [The conversation] was very much about who was interested. By no means was I ‘chosen’ amongst the group,” Lorenz said. “I had been working with the senior class for a number of years, [and] I was interested and verbalized that to the team. We all talked with each other about the change and who was interested. [But,] in the end, I expressed the most interest.” 

Of the four Parkway High schools, West is the last to adopt this counseling model. Parkway Central first added a college and career counselor in the 2013-14 school year, followed closely by Parkway North and South. 

“The idea of going to this model was brought to us from [both] our building administration and parent requests for more support and college advisement. They were two of the big proponents that led to the change in our model,” Lorenz said. “Parkway high schools are making a lot of changes to get the schools more in line with each other, from bell schedules to the programs our kids are [offered]. In the end, we’re doing our best to meet student and family needs, and this is the result.”

Having been a counselor for 19 years — at West for 17 of them — Lorenz found himself drawn to post-secondary planning and hopes to work towards improving the counseling department’s knowledge of the topic.

“I’m looking forward to creatively pushing into a different area and expanding upon our current programming. I enjoy talking about college and post-secondary plans whatever they are — even if it’s not college-bound,” Lorenz said. “There was a part of me that always felt I didn’t have enough time to expand upon the offerings, the presentations and the programming to give the students all of what they needed. [As a result], they were on their own to figure things out more than they should have been. I’m looking forward to having more time to help with that.”

An infographic defining some typical college terminology. (Madi Michajliczenko)

Senior Allie Byergo feels that the addition of a college and career counselor is a welcome change and allows students to receive equal opportunities and treatment.

“[The shift] is great. One counselor is given the ability to focus on [college planning] and become an expert as opposed to having to balance managing schedules and helping students with other things as well as college. It’s nice to have one designated person to go to so everybody is getting the same resources. It’s not like one person might have a counselor who is more college focused and another might have [one] who is more school-focused. Everybody is on an even playing field getting the same advice,” Byergo said. 

Although some students view the change as necessary, others feel displaced by the counseling shift and worry about Lorenz’s new caseload. 

“I think [the shift] is good for him because it’s something he’s always been interested in, but it’s sad for me and [other] students that have had him all four years in high school. It’s hard to change your counselor your senior year,” senior Molly Glisson said. “I’m happy for him to move on to bigger and better things, the only thing I’m wondering about is how he’s going to handle talking to that many students. It’s such a big role to take over, talking to every single senior and junior about college.”

While there are some reservations about the shift, Lorenz hopes to soothe worries during the upcoming school year, treating it as a time to learn and improve the department and the entire student body. 

“We’re still early in the window. Even though we have fully transitioned by title, I still have a foot in both worlds. I’m still very much responding to my old caseload with early schedule changes and some of the traditional things I would do,” Lorenz said. “When you have a college counselor, you’ve pulled an individual out of [their traditional responsibilities], and then they’re available for other important needs. [So,] I think it will take time for our building and its students – its families – to feel the benefits of having this position in counseling, but the accessibility and time to build the advisement are where the benefits will be.”