Mindy Salyers (center) with Great Lakes Adventist Academy students
To address this, the main plan of action, labeled Counseltation Services, is being used by several Lake Union schools and proving to be the best friend of those they serve. Counseltation Services combine mental health counseling in a consultant capacity so that teachers, administrators, and parents have access to Adventist contextualized mental health supports without the large overhead price tag of adding an additional staff member.
Mindy Salyers, a licensed Adventist school counselor and educator residing in Chicago, described her role in this mental-health-rescue operation as being in a “‘no-man’s land’ because this is a little-known role in Adventist schools. Added to that, Conference budgets are limited.”
However, last year’s Illinois Conference piloted counseling initiative spurred other Lake Union conferences to jump aboard to obtain Counseltation Services. Salyers says, “The obvious needs, coupled with the capacity of virtual technology, have allowed us to think outside the box.”
This is where the Versacare Foundation came to the fore by approving grant monies for the schools that applied. With applause for the cause, eight North American Division (NAD) schools participated in 2020‒2021, three of which are in the Lake Union: Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. In addition, Great Lakes Adventist Academy (Michigan) also received a substantial grant from Versacare to provide caseload-based counseling for at-risk students. With four of the five Lake Union conferences onboard, it makes the Lake Union a forerunner in mental health services for Adventist schools.
Moreover, because the Counseltation initiative works to bring mental health support to Adventist schools, it goes hand-in-hand with the Versacare Foundation mission statement: “To serve humanity by engaging in that which will further the Kingdom of God to restore the image of God in mankind.”
Thus, Versacare awarded a generous $60,000 to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin conferences to bring mental health and healing during the 2021‒2022 school year.
Salyers stresses, “With Counseltation Services’ approach to Adventist mental health, conferences obtain access to a licensed school counselor that is affordable, relevant, and contextualized in a Christ-centered theology.
“Counseltation aims to support teachers in classrooms and impacting their students through web-based, social-emotional, learning videos and printable application activities. Regular newsletters are provided for educators.”
Having these tools available at the click of a mouse supports and empowers Adventist teachers such as Tiffany Meulamans, who teaches 5th through 8th grades at Peterson Adventist School (in Columbus, Wis.), who shared a recent classroom experience. “Thank you so much for Counseltation Services! It was a God-send today. I grabbed the Stress and Anxiety video, and our afternoon turned into SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) time. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was able to put this up without prep, and I see smiles on faces that were tear-stained an hour ago.”
Delwin Garcia, principal at Great Lakes Adventist Academy, enthusiastically points out, “Anyone who works with young people can tell you that there is a rapidly increasing need for mental health services among our young people. At Great Lakes Academy, we prayed for a solution. The Lord answered by using Mindy (Salyers)’s ministry to change students’ lives, helping them to work through their emotional and health obstacles, so they can focus on their spiritual, social and academic life to live life at its fullest. We’re blessed to have Mindy as part of our ministry team.”
At a time when the pandemic finds parents struggling to understand their child’s behavior, and worried about the learning gap that resulted from online schooling, parents are eager for any resource Counseltation Services offers. Salyers notes, “Using the on-demand Counseltation model, families can access articles, videos and Kid’s Connection, a monthly newsletter.”
Another educator, Sue Nelson, Wisconsin Conference superintendent, reviews Mindy’s “sound advice and willingness to respond and assist families in locating local resources.” Plus, Nelson zeroes in on the high quality of professionalism found in the website videos.
Having been a school counselor for 20 years as well as a trainer for LaSierra University’s Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) since 2013, Salyer comments, “I am so touched by how Adventists school climates have been impacted by prevention training and school culture initiatives, and yet grateful that the unforeseen COVID‒19 brought mental health awareness to the forefront of Adventist educators.”
Betty Kossick was a professional freelance writer, journalist and poet with 50-plus years of experience. She remained faithful to her calling until her passing on Feb. 2, 2022.