Francis Case counselor makes a soft place to land for kids having a rough morning
BOX ELDER, S.D. – Every morning at Francis Case Elementary, Shelley Mitchell opens the door to her office room for students in need of a morning boost.
“I feel like I have a way to connect with individuals and kids,” Francis Case Elementary School Counselor Shelley Mitchell said. “And felt like this would not feel like work to me everyday. And it would be something that I would enjoy and love.”
Since 2015, she has worked in the counseling field and started her career as a school counselor in 2016 at an elementary school in Fort Pierre. However, she did not intend on becoming a school counselor while in college. As a student at Black Hills State University, she spent her undergraduate years pursuing a degree in mass communications with an emphasis in public relations.
“Towards the end of my bachelor’s degree, I became a mom and I got married and had kiddos, and found myself wanting a schedule that was more conducive with their upbringing,” Mitchell said. “But also found myself reflecting on some things that I had gone through growing up and just felt like this was the area I wanted to work in and give back in.”
Mitchell first came to Box Elder in 2017, and has been with the school ever since. The program she has at the school, called “Mornings with Mrs. Mitchell,” create a safe space in her office for students to go and complete their morning routines. Whatever the reason, whether the child woke up late or maybe did not start the day off on the right foot, her classroom gives children a place to do something like combing their hair, brushing their teeth and taking some time to prepare for the day.
“They can have the opportunity to come here – reset, take a breath. Let me fix them up for the day,” she explained. “Because when we look our best, we do our best. And then that will carry over into their academics as well.”
And the mental health aspect of “Mornings with Mrs. Mitchell” is not lost on her either. Through sharing her office with students and taking time to help them, She hopes this act of kindness will follow the students through life and help them navigate any difficulties they may face.
“Sometimes if we just are given that five or ten minutes for somebody to care about us, whether we are an adult or a kid,” Mitchell said. “Just have that five minutes to say ‘hey, I see you. I care. Let me help turn your day around,’ I think that is why it is important and I want to give that to kids.”
For her office, she is accepting donations for her program. Items such as kids hygiene products, hair care supplies and body soap are among the top priority items. Other items like non-perishable breakfast items and foods or gift cards are also appreciated. Any materials can be dropped off at the school office for her to pick up.