Help is Here


Original Photo by Jessica Cox

Hard classes, extracurriculars, mean teachers. Family problems, friend drama, social media pressures. Sadness, anxiety, loneliness. Sometimes the stresses of our high school lives can catch up to us. As a high schooler, I would like to say that I am well-informed and always utilize the resources provided to me when life gets hard. However, coming forward and talking to someone about the stresses of long-term or even everyday life is difficult.

The great news is that there are trained professionals under Air Academy’s roof that want to and can help. Air Academy’s Counseling staff consists of Alpha Counselor A-D, Sherri O’Lonergan, Alpha Counselor R-Z, Lynda Powell, Alpha Counselor E-K, Sean Brotherton, and Alpha Counselor L-Q, Erica Riggs. In my past year at Air Academy, I have gotten to know Mrs. O’Lonergan as more than just the person I go to in order to switch around my schedule. She makes time, listens to what I have to say about the adversities I’m facing, and she provides solutions to help me come out of them happy. She didn’t try and force her opinion on me, push me aside, or act like she didn’t want to be there. I felt cared for, listened to, and like my feelings were valid. This is hard to come across in high school. I often feel as if my opinion doesn’t matter, or that my emotional health should take a back seat to my academics. Which, in actuality, is how most high school students feel. So why aren’t they turning to people who want to help?

I asked Counselor Erica Riggs why she thought that some students wouldn’t feel comfortable turning to their in-school mental health resources, and she said, “There is a stigma around mental health. Students feel as if reaching out or asking for help is a sign of weakness, and most high school students don’t want to feel as if something is ‘wrong with them’ or that they need to be ‘fixed’ in any way.”

This fact is very true. When asked, most of my peers stated that they didn’t want their classmates or family members finding out that they had visited the counselor for emotional assistance because they didn’t want to be looked at differently.

While this might be the case for most high school students, some don’t even know that a counselor’s job goes past advice on getting into college. Others simply avoid the counseling office because they don’t know how it will help. Air Academy student, Samantha Valtin says, “I think they can be helpful to students in many areas and are very hardworking, however when it comes to issues with administrators or the school they seem more about the school’s reputation than the student personally.”

When I asked Mrs. Riggs if there was anything that she would like to inform the students of Air Academy High School or any student who needs help and hasn’t turned to a counselor, she said, “Our doors are always open. Students have come in and we have been able to help. We are always here for any kind of support, and you are not weak for needing support.” No matter the issue, big or small, whether you think they can help or not, the counseling staff is here and always available to help.

For more information on how to contact the Air Academy Counseling Staff, visit