By Erika Fehernbach Prell
With summer winding down and back-to-school time upon us, it seemed perfect timing to feature a school expert living her purpose in this month’s Life Stories Series. Kim Cummings is Erika’s cousin-in-law and school counselor at the Wisconsin Dells High School. Kim is an amazing mom of two boys, wife, and friend. Their family also includes a dog, a cat, and a fish. Kim loves to read, hike, hang out with family, watch the Packers, watch her kids play sports, and bake. Besides her fierce love of family and adventurous spirit, Erika’s favorite traits that Kim possesses are her loyalty and empathetic soul topped with the right amount of sassiness and directness; Erika thinks these qualities serve her well in her chosen profession as a school counselor.
The Path to Becoming A School Counselor
Like many incoming college freshman Kim had no idea what she wanted to do for a career, which, per Kim, is pretty common with the most common major in colleges around the country being "Undecided". During her freshman and sophomore years of college, she explored a variety of classes and found that she really enjoyed psychology and sociology classes. She decided to major in psychology and minor in sociology. It wasn't until her senior year in college that Kim decided she wanted to be a counselor.
Kim says that her professors at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse encouraged her to get her master's degree and to pursue a career that worked with people. Several of them wrote her letters of recommendation for her master's degree program; two of them just wrote one for her without her even asking them for one. Kim feels that if it wasn't for them believing in her, she doesn’t know if she would have furthered her education.
Initially, she applied to a master's degree program with the thought of being a counselor in a domestic abuse shelter after volunteering at one during college. At the time Kim really wanted to work with the kids who were in those situations. Early on in her master's degree program, she switched to school counseling as it just felt like the right fit for her. Kim believes that making a difference in the life of a child is more valuable than anything else, and she gets to make this impact in the lives of her students.
She received a Master of Education/School Counseling---MSE at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It was a 2 year program during which she was able to intern at Fond du Lac High School, Omro High School, South Elementary in Baraboo, and Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo.
Living a Purposeful Life Through Your Career
Kim believes she was meant to be a school counselor as she enjoys working with kids and being able to be their safe spot. Kim reports she honestly realized being a school counselor was her life’s purpose when she started working at the high school level. She feels like she really makes a difference when working with this age group. Whether she is helping them apply to college, research careers, or letting them vent in her office, Kim feels like she is making a difference. Everyone needs a safe spot or person, and she can be that for her students.
All careers have less enjoyable pieces even when you are following your purpose. When Kim is working with students, she says it doesn't feel like work at all. This is the most enjoyable part of her job. However, she is charged with a lot of non-counseling duties and that definitely feels like work. One of the main challenges in Kim’s job is not bringing the job home. She hears a lot of things that make her heart so sad or even mad. For her own mental health, she can't bring that home with her or take it on as her problems, which is hard. Kim is very thankful for a great co-worker that lets her debrief with her. Since she is also a counselor, confidentiality is not broken.
Kim’s job lends itself to having a family. She usually has off when her kids are off of school. She is able to seek out professional opportunities during the summer and the school year to further develop her skills, and her husband is really good about helping with kid duties during that time so that she can get this development. Eventually, Kim would like to move to the college level and be more of an academic adviser and admissions counselor. Kim honestly believes that she was meant to be 3 things: a mom, a wife, and a counselor.
Kim’s Tips for High School Students
For all grades, Kim likes to stress to her students that someone else's opinion of you is none of your business.
To pursue your life’s purpose, Kim encourages everyone to follow their heart, and it will all fall into place. Kim’s favorite quote is, “Be kind to everyone. You never know the battles they are fighting”. This helps her to empathize with everyone.
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.