Amanda Heflin knew at a young age that she wanted to work with children.
Growing up the youngest child with two brothers and a sister, she recalls mental health concerns in her family. Since then, she knew she wanted to help other people.
Heflin is the newest guidance counselor at the Cole R-1 School District in Russellville.
She earned her master's degree in counseling from Stephens College in Columbia in May. When the position opened, high school counselor Lucas Morris reached out to a former professor who recommended Heflin.
Since April, Heflin has provided multiple services to more than 400 elementary and middle school students.
"I think the most challenging part (is) we have a lot of student needs and I'm only one person," Heflin said. "Also, there's a lot of problems I can't fix and the students can't fix, so it's hard when you want to do something but all I can do is be there."
She referred to difficulties students might face at home, like divorce or a death in the family.
Working one on one with students allows Heflin to develop a personal relationship with them. She knows their interests and goals and helps them with understanding social skills and planning.
In addition to responsive services, she also does career development, grade transitioning and planning, and is in charge of guidance lessons and system support.
Heflin is glad to work in a community that cares about school efforts. For example, the Buddy Pack program, provided by The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, allows students to take meals home over the weekend.
"There is a bit of a stigma around some of the kids who get Buddy Packs; some feel a little embarrassed by it, but others don't," Heflin said.
Heflin said she purchases school supplies and hygiene products to keep in her office for students in need. To help ease the judgment students might feel, she'll discreetly deliver whatever they need.
She said the mental health of students is a top priority to her.
"If someone broke their arm, you would obviously go to the doctor; but people don't think of mental health like that," Heflin said. "I used to be a teacher. Every school I went to, there were always those kids who needed (hygiene products and school supplies). I know they need it, and if I can buy it and provide it I will."