The impact of a student assistance coordinator

Seneca High School SAC Alexis Cuneo describes her involvement in the school.

Pictured is Seneca High School’s Student Assistance Coordinator Alexis Cuneo. Cuneo provides support for students struggling with substance abuse issues, as well as mental health issues.

By Melissa Riker

The Sun

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As a student assistance coordinator, every day is different, but has the same end goal in mind — to make a positive impact in a student’s life.

Seneca High School SAC Alexis Cuneo has been guiding students at the school since September with the goal of providing students with an outlet for personal growth and gaining insight on themselves.

Cuneo mainly meets with students regarding drug use, alcohol use and mental health issues, but her door is also open to students who are just having a bad day.

“I love working in a school setting because you see so many different students. I like being here because I think sometimes you hit those kids that don’t necessarily know they want help or even understand what you’re doing,” Cuneo said. “School is a safe place for a lot of kids so they’re more open and honest about what’s going on. I just like being that confidential person in the school that they can come to or that they know is a safe spot to come and talk.”

Although Cuneo meets with students at the high school, she discusses difficulties the students face both in and outside of Seneca. She also meets with students who teachers fear could be at a risk of going down the wrong path.

“I think it’s really important for them to gain insight and to get educated on different aspects of their mental health or substance use,” Cuneo said. “Not just knowing it’s bad, but to understand why. I don’t want to be just another adult telling them not to do it, but to help them really understand the implications of why it affects them.”

Cuneo’s approach when meeting with students is to first get to know the student’s interests and background, then to let them guide her into what topics need to be further discussed.

Along with educating students on the related subject matter, she provides them with resource options available to them.

Cuneo’s passion for becoming a SAC began during her undergraduate studies at Gettysburg College. After taking an introductory level psychology course, she decided to switch majors to psychology to pursue her endearment toward the field.

During her junior year of undergraduate studies, she partook in an internship at a school where she was able to observe the SAC, the child study team and the guidance department. With her time there, her fondness for becoming a SAC developed due to the openness she witnessed from the students and the relationships built between the students and the SAC.

Cuneo went on to achieve her master’s degree in mental health counseling and worked in a private practice as a therapist for individuals and couples before finding her way back to a school system with Seneca.

“All of the staff have been really open and welcoming, and I just think that the population of Seneca as whole has made for a very easy transition,” Cuneo said. “It’s a great place to work.”

Cuneo said a parent’s involvement in their child’s life is huge when it comes to substance abuse. She advised parents ask a lot of questions, to know what their children are doing and to be a parent first and a friend second.

Throughout her involvement in students’ lives, she said the most beneficial aspect is seeing them make a positive change within themselves.

“Them wanting to make the change and then being proud of themselves at the end, that’s really rewarding — when they see that what they’re doing is making a positive impact on their own life.” Cuneo said. “They can only change if they want to.”

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