James Madison University

Professor-In-Residence Program Empowers Youth

By Dina Manco
Posted October 1, 2014

In addition to being a licensed school and professional counselor, JMU’s School Counseling Program Co-Coordinator, Dr. Michele Kielty, is putting her credentials to work as a Professor-In-Residence (PIR) at Kate Collins Middle School in Waynesboro, VA. First serving at Lucy Addison Middle School in Roanoke, VA, Kielty is currently entering her third year promoting mindfulness in youth as a PIR in middle schools.

From helping the students face future career and education crises to helping them with internal conflicts, Kielty teaches strategies on how to focus as well as be in control of one’s thoughts and emotions. Her role is also to participate in parent-teacher conferences and to encourage calm behavior in students; this aids in keeping the students’ minds present during class time.  “My mission is to support students to meet their academic and career goals. The way I do that is trying to help the counselors intervene with them in whatever way they feel necessary,” Kielty says.

Each day is different at Kate Collins Middle School for Kielty. Normally, she will check in with the school counselors to see if they need her assistance with anything, work with students individually on issues they may be experiencing, and hold counseling groups on friendship, study skills, and various other topics. She collaborates with fellow graduate psychology professors Dr. Tammy Gilligan and Dr. Renee Staton on mindfulness consultations and interventions in K-12 education. She is also Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction trained; Kielty utilizes this training by following the curriculum from the Mindful Schools program and the Hawn Foundation’s MindUP™ program to aid her in her work. Mindful Schools encourages the implementation of mindfulness in education.  According the Hawn Foundation’s website, the MindUP™ program is an emotional literacy and positive psychology-based way of learning.

“I’ve been a counselor for a long time, and honestly what I have seen is the interventions for mindfulness work is incredibly effective – it has an immediate impact, and it is very empowering,” Kielty comments. “When kids feel like a lot of things are not in their control, it helps them feel like they have some control [in their lives].”

As a former school counselor, Kielty chose to embark on the PIR opportunity because she loves having the chance to directly reconnect and work with kids. She is also incorporating research projects into her work.

“I would like to continue to provide training to students and teachers in terms of how to incorporate mindfulness in social and emotional support. The ultimate goal is to help kids develop an inner strength and resource to stay with them for the rest of their lives,” Keilty adds. She also hopes she is “empower[ing] kids so they can have a meaningful life and positive control over themselves.”