Changing the Perception – Indirectly

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Noor Haddad, College Counselor

Collegewise

I’ve been struggling with the question – what’s your dream? Ever since I read Nikki’s blog post and was inspired and humbled by it, I have been thinking about the question on a daily basis and wondering why it was so difficult to answer.

When I first started counseling, my biggest concern was that the students I was serving would not relate to an Arab-American. After the election, working in a mostly conservative county, I was even more concerned. I had these discussions with my colleagues, and one of my mentors asked me why I was concerned. I explained, and my reasoning was largely emotional. He had me think about what he called my “circle of influence”. He told me to influence those in my circle, who I could affect on a daily basis, and not to worry about those within my “circle of concern”, otherwise known as the people I didn’t know that I kept worrying about. It was hard, but I did it.

I had a big caseload of seniors this year. A lot of them were very conservative politically. A lot of them liberal. A lot of them racially diverse. A lot of them whose race didn’t concern them. They all saw me as their counselor, liked me, respected me. I have become close with so many of them.

I stopped worrying about being Arab-American. In fact, I didn’t even bring it up. I did my work, I helped them, I challenged them, I laughed with them.

After our company retreat, I sat down with the same person who told me about this circle of influence. He sat back and said, “do you realize over this entire year you have changed the perception of Arab-Americans just by counseling these kids?”

I was dumbfounded. He was right. I had done it without even thinking of it. I had connected with each of my students to the point where it didn’t come across my mind as a worry anymore. It was my dream and I didn’t even realize I had come closer to achieving it. My dream has always been to challenge the perception I imagined was against me. We, as counselors, as women and men, as people of color, interact with kids who are going through such a formative part of their lives, on a daily basis. Through our interactions, our connections, our behaviors, our emotions, we are changing the perception.

The dream is nowhere near realized, but I’m so happy to be in a profession where we get a little bit closer to making that dream happen every day.

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