A Bronco Buddy Christmas Wish (#22)

School counselor Laura Rankhorn of the popular Counselor Accents podcast recounts how a handful of high school mentors brightened the holidays for their elementary student mentees.

Inspiring School Counselors
A Bronco Buddy Christmas Wish (#22)

This Week's Storyteller: Laura Rankhorn

School Counselor Laura RankhornLaura Rankhorn has dabbled in many professions before finding her love for education. She uses the marketing skills she acquired while obtaining her degree in Business Administration from Middle Tennessee State University to think of innovative ways to keep school exciting for the students at Good Hope Elementary where she serves as the school counselor. She and her colleague, Kim, host the Counselor Accents Podcast, which was recently named the #1 school counseling podcast in the nation! Laura and her husband, JC, live in Arab, Alabama, with their 2 daughters Victoria Belle and Ellie Blair.

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Matt Fleck:
Happy Holidays everyone and welcome to Encouraging Words for School Counselors – our five-minute podcast package – all wrapped up just for you featuring funny and touching stories from school counselors near and far. I’m Matt Fleck with Inspire Success.

Speaking of “far,” today we’re in Alabama with two hilarious school counselors, Laura Rankhorn and Kim Crumbley, who you may have heard of because they co-host a podcast for school counselors called Counselor Accents — a title that reflects both their accents and their southern charm.

We had a great time talking with them both. But today we’re featuring a short story from Laura. Her story begins a few years back when she created a student mentor program called Bronco Buddies.

Laura Rankhorn:
I was at an elementary school, but it was connected to a high school. Different principals, different everything. But I connected with the Key Club sponsor at the high school. And I said, do you have any students that would be willing to mentor some of my students that were, you know, kind of — “frequent flyers” we like to call them, where they visit the counselor’s office or the principal’s office quite a bit. Or just those students that need a little popularity boost and maybe a high school student to come eat lunch with them would just be a boost for them. And so anyway, we got to work together on that and connected lots of my elementary students with high school students

As the program got underway, Laura knew that her elementary students were meeting with their high school buddies, but she didn’t have a good way to gauge how well the program was going until a special event happened just a few days before school let out in December.

Right before Christmas break, we had an awards assembly at our school. And so a lot of our elementary students were getting awards. So I went through the roster of who all was getting an award and contacted their high school buddy / mentor, and just said, Hey, I just want to let you know that your buddy is getting an award at the, um, program tomorrow. Don’t feel like you have to come. I just wanted to let you know. And it just so happened that the next day when the awards program was, it wasn’t a school day for the high school students. They were off. So they didn’t have to come to school. And our awards program was at 8:00 AM. So I was just thinking high school students, they’re not going to come if they don’t have to be there, they’re not going to come. So I was sitting up on the stage and I looked out and when I looked out, I saw every single one of my Bronco buddies, not little buddies, every single one of them, their high school student came and cheered their guts out whenever their name was called. At the end, parents were taking pictures that high school students had brought flowers and balloons. And, like, they went all out. I didn’t say anything about that. It was incredible. And I’ve got chills, just talking about it, to see that they took it seriously. They took the initiative and came when they didn’t even have to. And it was just a great day. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Those occasional moments when our students, or our own kids even, rise above the expectations we have for them, when they do something unexpectedly nice that we didn’t see coming, it can be such a rewarding feeling. And for Laura, this happened more than once through the mentoring program.

I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but every now and then you have a favorite. And I would say this little family was one of my all time favorites. And the oldest little boy talked to me about how much he would love to have a PlayStation. But that was something that was so out of the realm of possibilities for that family. I don’t know. It just, it broke my heart because you know, they still believe in Santa, but you know that that’s not something that they could ever afford. And we get sponsors for our kids for Christmas, but it’s not something that I would ever ask a sponsor to get. Well, his high school buddy. And let me just say his high school mentor buddy was not the most upstanding citizen. He was one of those high school students that had just a wonderful heart, but sometimes would get into trouble. But this mentor program turned him around. So anyway, he came to me one day, and he said, Ms. Rankhorn, I’ve got to ask you something. He said, can you contact my buddy’s mom and ask her if it would be okay? He said, I want to give my PlayStation to my buddy. Would you call his mom and ask if that’s okay? Oh my goodness. I mean, I couldn’t believe it. And this little boy, he, he wanted to give it to him in person, you know, hand it to him. I’ve got chills all over again. I mean, it’s just amazing to, to watch these students rise to this level. When, like I said, he wasn’t the most upstanding citizen, but I don’t know. He just, he really answered the call on being a mentor.

You know, we’ve heard something similar from many of you this past year, about how students, when given the opportunity to help someone else sort of shift the focus onto something other than their not-so-great behavior, sometimes surprise us with their good behavior. Let’s hope for more of that in the new year. Good surprises. Watching for those occasions when our students — even ourselves — rise up above the noise and clamor to our better selves.

Hey, thank you, Laura, for your story…and remember you can hear Laura and her friend and colleague Kim Crumbley on their podcast for school counselors called Counselor Accents.

And be sure to tell your friends about OUR podcast too, Encouraging Words for School Counselors, is available on Apple iTunes, Amazon, Google, and all the rest. And on that topic — just a thought — during your winter break consider taking a couple of minutes to share one or two of YOUR favorite student stories from this past fall or from a previous school year. It’s super easy to do – just go to our website – inspiresuccess.org/podcast and click on “Add Your Story” to reach our virtual soundbooth where you can record your stories any time of day or night (and easily re-record if you mess up the first one or two or three times… like I do all the time).

Hey, thanks for listening! And have a safe and relaxing winter break. And happy holidays.