Two women pose for a photo. One of them is holding a plaque and flowers

Lesley Gilpin (left), a school counselor at The Providence School (Jessamine County), earned National Certified School Social Worker certification. Submitted photo

Following in her family’s footsteps, Lesley Gilpin, a school counselor at The Providence School (Jessamine County) has been in education for the past 24 years.

Gilpin’s mother and grandmother were both in education, inspiring her to take a chance in the industry as well.

In high school, Gilpin was a student aide for her school counselor, which allowed her to get a closer look at the work of counselors. In college, she said she was “just really interested in social work and realized that I could kind of pull that together and work in the school as a social worker.”

As a counselor, she said her role is to remove any barriers that may be keeping her students from being successful in and out of the classroom, using both her position as a counselor and her skillsets and knowledge in social work. She has a master’s in social work and a clinical social work license through the Kentucky Board of Social Work.

“I get to see them in a different light as a counselor than if I pursued solely social work, when I would’ve only seen them once a week in a therapy office,” said Gilpin.

Most recently Gilpin attained her National Certified School Social Worker certification. This achievement was important to Gilpin because she believes one should continue to grow.

“Being in this for 24 years, it’s easy sometimes to rely on what we already know, and I think it’s really important that as we get more experience, we also continue learning,” said Gilpin. “I will say it was not easy, and there were times I was like, ‘Nobody is making me do this.’ Honestly, I finished it because I was inspired by my students who make difficult things work by sticking to what they set out to do.”

Gilpin has been a counselor for six years at The Providence School, an alternative school that meets the needs of students that cannot be addressed in a traditional classroom setting.

“I feel like, especially in an alternative school setting because we have a smaller group of students, we can really build those relationships with the students and see them in a different light,” she said.

To complete her certification, Gilpin had to work around nine competencies associated with the National School Social Work Model. The national certification competencies are based upon the practice features in the National School Social Work Practice Mode.

“I’ve always heard about the national certification and I’ve really respected teachers who have taken that step and that it’s just like an extra area of growth for them,” she said.

The national certification specifically for social workers launched in April 2021. To attain the certification, social work professionals are required to create a portfolio that will be evaluated by experts in the field who have worked and/or taught in the field of school social work. Each of the evaluators is required to have completed training and have been normed in the evaluation process.

While creating her portfolio and through her research of each competency Gilpin said that this process has allowed her to reflect on her current practices and implement new ones with her students.

“It encouraged me to look at things with some fresh eyes after 24 years and stay current with new interventions that can be done, especially evidence-based interventions,” said Gilpin. “These practices are not just what feels good or sound good or are easy, but things that we know will work with our students and families.”

Gilpin said combining her love for social work and her passion for supporting students can occasionally come with long days.

“The job is not easy, but it is rewarding. The people that you work alongside are very important in helping you because there are moments when things get tough. I feel like we’re a supportive family to each other, but every day it is always rewarding to work with youth and see them be able to reach their potential,” said Gilpin.

Feeling supported by her peers and her school staff, Gilpin said she is grateful for the role she gets to have in these students’ lives and successes.

“Providence in Jessamine County really understands and supports mental health for students in a way that you don’t necessarily see everywhere,” she said. “It’s just exciting to see these students be successful and realize their potential.”