In this week’s series highlighting school counselors of the year, we talk with TaRael Kee who’s work as a school counselor and school counseling advocate reaches across the country.
This Week's Storyteller
TaRael Kee is an Assistant Principal and President of the Illinois School Counselor Association. He works on the Nominations & Elections Committee & Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for the American School Counselor Association (ASC).
TaRael also has a successful YouTube channel called The Kee to Success. You can also find TaRael on Twitter.
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Hi, everyone! Thanks for joining us this week for the Encouraging Words for School Counselors podcast, featuring stories from school counselors about their school counseling experiences. I’m Matt Fleck, with Inspire Success, and inspired this week to introduce you to TaRael Kee, who is Illinois’ School Counselor of the Year.
You may already know TaRael because of his work on two national committees with the American School Counselor Association or for his advocacy work around diversity and inclusion policies. You may also know TaRael because of his popular YouTube channel Kee to Success which TaRael started as a reaction to all of the negative news he was hearing.
One day, you know, I was watching the news on YouTube and everyone was talking about all of the bad things that are happening in the world and I was like, man, whatever happened to good news, right? And then I kind of thought about it. I was like, you know, sometimes in life, you’re the person that’s responsible for making the news that you want to hear and the difference that you want to see. So it was really in my mind to just start a podcast, I was just going to do an audio only podcast at first. And so I did that and it was working. I just grabbed the microphone, went out, ordered it off of Amazon. I just grabbed it and I just went for it and that was working. And then my wife was like, you really need a YouTube channel – people need to see you and interact with you and things like that. And so I created a YouTube channel and things just really took off really fast and I have over 2000 subscribers now.
TaRael’s YouTube channel interviews educators from around the country regarding their contributions to life and about who and what encouraged them to be leaders. Promoting leadership is something TaRael has a bit of experience in. As a high school counselor for ten years, TaRael has many stories of students he has encouraged.
I had a student who really had our heart set since she was a freshman on going to the University of Illinois Chicago. She wanted to go to a big city. She had her own business and everything. Her parents didn’t have a lot of money, but she really believed in herself and she was a great student, one of the top students in the class, just from a low SES family. So, you know, we’re going through the process and it’s not really looking like she was getting a tremendous amount of money, but [then] COVID hits and a lot of the schools go test optional, right? So now they’re looking at her GPA more than her test score. So throughout the course of the year she was getting more money, but just still not quite enough – she still probably had about $12,000 outstanding. We turn in more paperwork and more documents, like taxes. And I remember the day, we were in the library and we opened up the computer and she said, you know, I don’t understand what this is saying. And I remember telling her, I said, “Hey, it means you have a full ride.” And she just started bawling. she was crying. She didn’t owe a dime. And now she’s up there at UIC in her second year, going for free.
Even though TaRael is now in his first year of being an assistant principal, he continues to keep his focus on what’s best for students.
I would tell school counselors the most important thing that you can do is care for students. Like, you don’t have to know it all, but if you care for students, it’s going to lead to you getting more reps, like you’re not just working through problems with kids. It will lead to you seeking out high quality professional development and getting more involved because you care and you want to learn more to help your students. So I think as long as students are at the center of what you’re doing – you know, of course like take care of yourself – but if students are at the center of what you’re doing, eventually over time you have no choice but to one day become an incredible school counselor.
TaRael is continuing his advocacy for students and counseling. As the president of the Illinois School Counselor Association his advocacy committee is asking legislators to use Biden administration funding to ensure every school employs at least one school counselor. Yes, they’d like to see student to counselor ratios lowered to 250 students per counselor, but TaRael says the first step is to make sure every student, in every school, has access to a school counselor.
Thanks, TaRael, for taking time to talk with us. You can find a link to his popular Kee to Success YouTube channel on our podcast website which is inspiresuccess.org/podcast. Where you can also record a favorite funny or touching story of YOUR school counseling experiences with a student or family…or just send us a note so we can set up a recording with you at a time that’s convenient.
One thing to note: very soon you will be able to register for our fall RAMP Ready cohort of schools wanting to use our new online platform for walking through every step you need to prepare your RAMP application. It’s a phenomenal system, if I do say so myself, with personal feedback provided by our own Aimee Portteus – school counselor extraordinaire – so be listening for more information about that.
For now, so long. Have a wonderful week.