Written by Jessica Dawdy, a Dove Self-Esteem Project incentive winner
I have sat here thinking about my experience and how to sum it all up in a short write up and found that this is not an easy task. As a school counselor I tell my students you can do anything you put your mind to. So I am going to use those words of wisdom to accomplish this.
Where do I start; It was a typical January day. We had just gotten back to school from winter break and like any school counselor can tell you this is a crazy time of year. I started my morning like all mornings with a good cup of coffee, at the office well before the school doors open so I can try to accomplish one of the many daunting tasks that are awaiting me. I logged into my email to get those pesky emails out of the way. The first one caught my attention. It was from the Dove Self-Esteem Project (a program that is dear to my heart). It read in short that I had won an all expense paid trip to a conference of my choosing. I sat on that email for a bit because I could only think this has to be a scam, right, I mean I never win anything and my luck just isn’t that good. I did respond back and found out it was not a scam. I almost leaped for joy! I was so excited and ran almost at once to tell the rest of my counseling friends in my office.
I eventually chose to attend the American School Counseling Association conference in Austin, Texas for July of 2022. This is a conference I could only dream of attending. We all know school counselors do not make that much money, we do our jobs because of our students and the changes we see in their lives. The next few months were spent talking back and forth with the amazing Samantha, who works for Dove Self-Esteem project. We got everything all set up and ready to go! My tickets were purchased, my hotel booked and my bags were packed and ready.
I boarded the plane that July 9th at 5:15am with great anticipation of what awaited me. When I arrived in Austin I headed to the hotel to meet up with Samantha and get all checked in. Samantha was a pleasant greeting! The hotel was amazing and the workers went above and beyond to make me feel welcomed. After getting my bag dropped off to my room (which I can say was one of the best rooms I have ever stayed in) I walked the 2 blocks to the convention center. Upon walking in the doors you could feel the excitement in the air. Counselors scurrying all around the building getting checked in and finding their first destination. I was helped along the whole process of getting my badge and bag of goodies by wonderfully friendly ASCA volunteers. Once I got everything squared away I proceeded to the first stop for me Lunch. After that I attended some insightful presentations, met many new people and heard how every counselor is struggling with the same issues.
I spent the next few days doing this and when I was not in sessions, I would stop by the exhibitors tables to learn about more products, programs, and resources that are out there for us to use. I found so much information and my mind went a million miles a day. The experience was just that, a once in a lifetime experience, one I will never forget. My favorite sessions were Creative Techniques in Counseling, Build Your Own Student Support Initiative, Change the Anxiety Conversation, and the eXperienceED session. I brought back with me many new ideas to start the conversation on for implementation. I also came back with more knowledge on how to help my students to feel confidence, and become leaders in our communities.
I have to thank those who work for Dove Self-Esteem Project for helping me make this dream come true. Dove inspires students to have the self-esteem they need to go out into the world and make a difference. They truly look at what and how to help students be more confident in themselves and make it work. Their program has helped many of my students feel empowered to be themselves, and not let others judge them for who they are. If you have not checked out their resources or program I encourage you to, because it just might be one of the many tools you will find yourself using to help others out.