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Q&A with Upper School Counselor Kira White

Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in northern New Jersey and moved to Pennsylvania in 2009 to attend Swarthmore College. I completed two years of AmeriCorps service in Philly before going to graduate school at Penn to study social work and public health. I live in West Philly with my cats and an ever-rotating cast of foster animals and spend most of my time making pottery, playing ultimate frisbee, and geeking out about plants. 
 
What are five words to describe you?
Compassionate, silly, outspoken, approachable, loving
 
What are your signature strengths?
This was my first time taking the VIA and I'm not too surprised to find that my signature strengths are Love, Honesty, Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Kindness, and Humor!
 
Why did you choose to go into counseling?
Before I knew I wanted to do counseling, I knew I wanted to work in a school... but I realized I didn't want to focus on academic content as much as I wanted to help students figure out some of the other parts of growing up. I think the presence of a supportive school counselor is something that adults either remember from their time in school or wish they had had at that time in life.
 
Who or what inspires you?
It might sound cheesy but the answer is kids, especially the ones I've been lucky enough to meet up to this point in my career. They remind me that fun and joy should be part of every single day and that we all have the capacity for growth and change at any stage of our lives. Every young person I work with teaches me something new.
 
What appealed to you about Shipley?
My work as a counselor is affected, of course, by how much my colleagues value mental health and emotional support for students. I love Shipley's commitment to developing students as whole people, which I think has to include emotional well-being and awareness – they are skills fundamental to navigating the world.
 
What do you do for fun or to relax?
My favorite activities for cultivating joy in my life include hiking, gardening, ultimate frisbee, rescuing animals, and making art – especially ceramics. 
 
What are you currently watching/reading/listening to?
I'm a huge podcast lover. I listen to everything from comedy to history to true crime. Lately I've been enjoying Unlocking Us with Brené Brown and Behind the Police, a series about the history of American policing. 
 
What are people surprised to learn about you?
That I need a lot of alone time to recharge and might actually be an introvert! Being outgoing comes naturally but I can only do it for so long before I need to engage in some of my self-care practices.
 
How do you think educators can best contribute to the well-being of their students?
LISTEN! Even if you have no mental health training, everyone can be an active and compassionate listener. In the hustle and bustle of things, we don't always take the time to really hear what kids are telling us – but we need to make it a point to stop, drop everything, and just open our ears sometimes.
 
How will you help Shipley create a culture that supports members of the LGBTQIA+ community?
The first step of creating a supportive and inclusive culture, for me, is awareness and visibility. It's so hard for so many reasons to be an openly queer or trans young person and it is even more difficult when you don't have adults around you who understand your experience. I have the privilege to be comfortable speaking about my own identity with the hopes that it makes someone else more comfortable sharing with me or with their own loved ones!
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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.