S6E7 Our World’s Diverse Students Need Anti-Racist School Counselors

S6 E8: Our World’s Diverse Students Need Anti-Racist School Counselors

A conversation with Syntia Santos-Dietz about what school counselors need to work on in order to better serve diverse students around the world. 

Episode Notes

As American public schools become increasingly diverse, tens of millions of children find themselves navigating systems that weren’t designed with their backgrounds and cultures in mind. Beyond the U.S., the problem can be even more stark—because American approaches, even when flawed, have ripple effects worldwide. Today’s guest, Syntia Santos-Dietz, says that school counselors are especially situated to make changes that better serve students around the world. In this conversation, we talk about what it means for school counselors to develop cultural competence, how traveling back and forth between cultures has helped her understand the systems she works within, and her plan to bring Antioch school counseling students to work and study in her home country of Honduras.

Guest

Syntia Santos Dietz

Dr. Santos Dietz obtained her PhD in Counseling and Counselor Education at North Carolina State University and her MEd in School Counseling from the State University of New York at Buffalo as a Fulbright scholar. She worked as a professor and program coordinator in her home country, Honduras, in their school counseling program at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazán and as assistant professor in counselor education at East Carolina University. Dr. Santos is a former k-12 educator in Honduras with an elementary school teaching certificate and a bachelor’s degree in education with a major in School Counseling. Dr. Santos has had the privilege of being an international student and international faculty and working on various international education initiatives.


Visit Antioch’s website to learn more about the MA in School Counseling that Syntia teaches in and helped found.

Learn more about Syntia’s work on her faculty page

This episode was recorded April 4, 2024 via Riverside.fm and released May 1, 2024. 

The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University

Host: Jasper Nighthawk

Editor: Johanna Case

Digital Design: Mira Mead

Web Content Coordination: Jen Mont

Work-Study Interns: Sierra-Nicole E. DeBinion, Carrie Hawthorn, Stefanie Paredes, and Georgia Bermingham.  

S6E8 Transcript – Syntia Santos-Dietz

[00:03] Jasper Nighthawk: This is the Seed Field Podcast, the show where Antiochians share their knowledge, tell their stories, and come together to win victories for humanity. 

[MUSIC] 

[00:18] Jasper: I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk, and today we’re joined by Syntia Santos-Dietz for a conversation about how school counselors are supporting students from across our world by bringing anti-racist practices and the principles of social justice into their work. I’m excited to learn more about this topic, because while I don’t think there’s ever been a time, at least here in the U.S., when we haven’t needed many more social justice minded educators in our schools, I also think that today the need is as great as it’s ever been. Our schools are more and more diverse every year, and they’re diverse along so many axes, from race to class, and also to gender and sexuality. Preparing for this episode, I actually went back and looked at the demographics of public school students in the US when I started kindergarten myself in 1995. And I found that at that point, 70% of students in the U.S. were white. And that wasn’t counting Hispanic students, who the U.S. census doesn’t count as a race. But at any rate, back then it was 70%, and by 2022, the last year we have data for, the number was about 45%. And these numbers sometimes get trotted out on the Internet or in our politics by white supremacists who say, this is something we have to be worried about. I think that’s an obvious racist dog whistle. But what does concern me here is not that our U.S. schools are becoming more diverse, but I’m worried that the children who are navigating these school systems, and trying to find their way, are often doing so in systems that weren’t designed for them, for people with their specific set of backgrounds. And these systems were often designed decades ago when the U.S. was much more homogeneously white. And that can create a lot of problems for students from historically marginalized communities. And also, it’s worth sometimes stepping outside of the U.S.-centric view and zooming out a little bit. I’m also concerned that the U.S. has an outsized influence on how public education is run in other countries around the globe. And this can mean that if there’s something that’s wrong with American education here at home, it can have ripple effects on students worldwide. To explore these questions, and specifically to look at how they play out for school counselors who play a key role in school systems, we’re lucky to have with us Syntia Santos-Dietz. Syntia is an associate professor in Antioch University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. She’s also the co-founder and co-director of Antioch’s Latinx Mental Health and Social Justice Institute. And she’s the new program director of the Antioch Master in School Counseling. She’s been a key part of the team that’s designing this school counselor training program, and they’re going to be welcoming their first cohort this fall. We’re recording this in spring of 2024. Syntia also brings her identity as a Honduran to her work. She’s worked in Honduras as a school counselor, as well as a professor training future school counselors in that country. I also want to mention, this is not my first time interviewing Syntia. We talked three years ago when we had a conversation with her and her colleague, Cathy Lounsbury, about their work decolonizing the clinical mental health counseling curriculum. But today, I’m really looking forward to hearing some of the insights she’s gained from her work in schools in two countries, in teaching school counseling, and now in designing a new school counseling program. So with that, Syntia, welcome to the Seed Field podcast. 

[03:53] Syntia Santos-Dietz: Hi, thank you so much, Jasper, for having us here and for giving me the opportunity to talk about this program and my experience. We are really excited to be starting and to receive our first cohort in the fall. 

[04:06] Jasper: That’s so great. And yeah, it’s really it’s our pleasure to get to hear some of your insights, which we’ll get to in one second. But before we go there, we always like to start the show by asking guests to disclose their positionality. Especially when it’s relevant to the topic we’re discussing. And today we’re talking about public education, which touches so many of our society’s axes of oppression. I’ll go first. I think it’s useful for listeners to know that I’m white. I’m a cisgendered man. I’m not currently living with a physical disability, though I do experience anxiety and depression. I’m queer, I have a college degree and a master’s degree. And I also have steady housing and income. And I don’t take any of that for granted. Syntia, as much as you’re comfortable, can you share your own position? 

[04:52] Syntia: Thank you so much. There is so much nuances when we think about our privilege and who we are within this world and within the work that we do. So let me start by I am a cisgender female. I use the pronouns she, her, hers. I am able-bodied as well. I was born and raised in Honduras, so my native language is Spanish. So English is my second language. I was raised middle class, and I am educated, employed. I really identify as international in many levels for many things that I do. I have been learning to be a Latina in the United States, so that has been very interesting. I also am embracing the idea of being an immigrant in this country as well as being an American, as well as being white because of my color of skin and what that means between that whiteness and that being a Latina as well. Yeah, and I am a mom, a wife, a sister, and a daughter. That’s a little bit of who I am. 

[05:52] Jasper: Thank you. I mean, I feel like that is, of course, just the checkboxes of identity, but it also, it gives us a picture of who we’re talking to. And I appreciate that. And also, you kind of hinted at what maybe we can talk about a little later of navigating being an international person and navigating whiteness. American whiteness is such a powerful and kind of scary force. 

[06:13] Syntia: For sure.

[06:14] Jasper:  Okay, so I want to jump straight into anti-racist work in school counseling. And we’re focusing today specifically on school counselors who play this important role of helping students with career readiness, academic planning, and also providing social emotional support for students. And where I really want to start this conversation is asking, why do you believe school counselors should be anti-racist? 

[06:38] Syntia: Such a big question. And the first thing that comes to mind is because it’s our responsibility, because we ought to. And because we are in a position that we are able to do something, that’s the other key element for that. So we are living in a space that is full of opportunities. We are in school settings. We are in places where we are having connections and interactions with our new generations of people, of citizens. Global citizens, I would say. And then we are also connecting to their parents, to their teachers, to their communities. So we do much more than a one hour counseling session in the end. So we are very, very involved in the education system and in the school life. So I think that all itself give us the opportunity, but also that responsibility within our code of ethics, within who we are, within serving others in terms of actually becoming anti-racist and doing as much as advocacy work that we can do within that place. And it’s important to also know that for many kids, we are the only ones who are there for them in that space and in that scenario for many reasons, without blame or anything. But they are looking for that support and that help. So for many of them, that counseling person, that counseling space might be the safer person that they have ever talked to or the person that they can actually ask questions. And can you imagine all the questions that children have for teenagers? 

[08:05] Jasper: Yeah. 

[08:06] Syntia: Right, in their lives, just like regular developmental things. 

[08:09] Jasper: Yeah, having an adult who you trust and who you can turn to is an absolute gift for any child at any level. And having one at school who is being provided by society at large rather than directly from the family unit, I think also can have some important distance as well. 

[08:29] Syntia: True.

[08:30] Jasper: We’re talking with several of your colleagues as well. And I interviewed Taqueena Quintana, and we were talking about the demographics of the school counseling as a profession. And the fact that 74% of school counselors are white, at least in the American School Counselor Association. Well, as I mentioned in my intro, only 45% of students in the US are white. And there’s a broader question for the profession of how to bring in more diverse school counselors so that the profession itself can more reflect the students who they’re serving. But even for existing school counselors, how do you go about trying to serve the really diverse needs of student populations today? 

[09:16] Syntia: Well, that’s a big fight. We are definitely very aware of that. There’s a lot of research out there that people can go and look up if you’re interested in. In terms of that disparity of who is in there, the lack of counselors that are bicultural, that are bilingual, that are representatives of other cultures. The lack of opportunities for our students in the schools to have somebody that can look like them, that can speak like them, that can understand what’s happening. We have, unfortunately in the schools, a lot of things that are happening that are not okay. And a lot of students that are suffering because of that, because that system does not want to understand them. And they don’t have anybody who can advocate for them because they don’t understand that. 

[10:05] Jasper: Can you tell us some of these things that are happening in schools that are not okay? 

[10:09] Synita: Yeah, for sure. Again, a lot of research on that. But we talk a lot about the pipeline and talking about African American kids, for example. And that idea of having more students in the schools being called to the principal’s office just because. Because they are louder, because they are deemed noisy, because they are deemed misbehaving. And for behaviors that might be just part of who they are as a cultural being. And that’s the way that they navigate their family and their collective communities versus the way that more individualistic cultures are meant to do things or prescribed to do things or what they deem right or wrong. In terms of people that have second language, for example, too. I have heard so many instances where in the school deemed very negative for them to actually speak on their native language. And again, that’s the fear of I don’t understand and I don’t know what to do about it. And I don’t know if they are speaking about me, which is probably not. I don’t think they are that important to be honest. 

[11:08] Jasper: The fear of a secret language that the teacher can’t understand. 

[11:13] Syntia: Exactly, and so they became very negative around that and not allowing them to be able to express themselves. Like as a native Spanish speaker, I can tell you that many times my Spanish comes across in what I’m talking about because of many reasons. Because I am reading something in Spanish prior to have a conversation in English. Because I learned something that now it has become a synonym of a word. So now I know that a glass is a vaso. So my brain just give me one of them. It’s like it’s the same thing. So just pick one, right? That’s how the brain works. And so it’s not that I am trying to annoy you. It’s just that that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And for children and adolescents within their developmental stages, they might not be mature enough to differentiate. And that’s how we come up with that Spanglish or those mixtures of languages. 

[12:01] Jasper: Yeah. 

[12:07] Syntia: Because that’s more comfortable for them. That’s what they are learning and that’s how they are learning. 

[12:11] Jasper: Yeah, and I think coming from a home where a non-English language is being spoken and then trying to navigate an English first educational system. Or the school to prison pipeline that really targets black students in the US. In both of those cases, you’re saying it can often be like a lack of cultural competence that is causing behaviors that can be easily explained as something good and healthy coming from the home. But that is not part of maybe the culture of the counselor or the principal that is being misunderstood. That it’s not like deliberately bad behavior, however you want to define that. And we could probably challenge that too. Could you talk a little bit more about cultural competence? 

[12:58] Syntia: For sure, and I think the first thing that comes to mind as I hear you speak is the knowledge. Just having basic knowledge of what is part of a culture, especially if you know that you have these specific demographics within your institution. I think it’s, again, our responsibility to do our due diligence to really understand better or have a sense or even have the time to actually talk to the students, right? To talk to one another, to actually ask what the situation is or for them to share their experience. Sometimes we don’t even know how we’re gonna react or what are the things that are coming into play that are part of culture. Not even ourselves, so it’s very important to have those conversations and just to be open to ask the questions that you need to ask. And again, when we talk about multicultural competency, I think it’s also another fear of that. And I think we have a lot of pushback for that word competency, just because sometimes it gets interpreted as a ceiling of it all. You get to the point that you’re a master or something.

[14:01] Jasper:  I’m a master of other people’s cultures. 

[14:04] Syntia: That’s exactly, which is never gonna happen. As I think we’re very aware, that’s not the case, probably in anything. But especially when we talk about multiculturalism, diversity, social justice, advocacy. There is always something we can learn from one another and about each other’s cultures. And so the important thing is how much are you working on your own self-awareness? How much are you working on understanding and giving the opportunity to have the conversations about learning about others?

[14:34] Jasper: Yeah. 

[14:35] Syntia: Especially if they are different from you, that they have no common base or foundation, that their stories are different than yours from the ground up. So if that’s the case, how do you open up the conversations to know that there are differences, that you see the world differently? So those type of things are really important. Obviously not to mention specific knowledge, specific training opportunities for you to know more about it, to develop more skills about it. Even in terms of how to ask questions, how to talk about that, how to broach cultural issues when you have conversations. How to bring in consultants and people that are experts. I know there is a lot of people out there doing great work just going into schools and having conversations with teachers, with students, and really trying to change the narrative of what’s happening out there too. 

[15:23] Jasper: Yeah, and I appreciate the way that you frame competence doesn’t mean, I read the whole Wikipedia article about what Hispanic means and now I could ace a test on it. Which is often how competence is measured in school environments. But it sounds like you’re describing something much closer to humility and curiosity, these bigger virtues that can lead to actual knowledge and relationship. 

[15:51] Syntia: For sure, and we have great conversations with my students, especially when I teach the social and cultural diversity class. And I think I’m always laughing because even when we talk about, me talking about the Latinx community in the United States is like, I don’t know, I wasn’t born here. So I can tell you this from my perspective and I share my opinion openly and freely. But it’s not the same than the experience of a person that was born and raised here. So we have a lot of back and forth in terms of even what the literature says. There are some things that I agree with and some things that I don’t agree with. That are talking about how to work with my community. 

[16:28] Jasper: Yeah. 

[16:29] Syntia: And the community that I’ve been put on in this country. 

[16:32] Jasper: Yeah, as an immigrant, you joined it. 

[16:34] Syntia: And it has been interesting. 

[16:35] Jasper: I actually was curious if you could talk a little bit more about how the counseling profession and specifically school counselors have been trained up till now to serve the Latinx community. And what areas you’re pushing for the profession to do better? 

[16:50] Syntia: I think first of all, I have to say that all counselors have a very common foundation. What is our purpose? We want to serve people, we want to help them. We really are pro mental health and really cheerleading the well being of everyone, right? We want to work with everyone. We have the basic foundational code of ethics. We follow those basic regulations, let’s say, if we put it that way. We are also usually follow the same basic standards for accreditation for the programs. So the foundational things in programs, especially if they are accredited, look similarly. So all the core courses or the big objectives of what we want to accomplish in terms of knowledge and skills and practice and theories and all of that. However, when we go to actually specializations, that’s how we define them. So the school counseling specialization itself really deals with a different type of action in terms of what we do and who we are within the school systems. So we need to really use that program to have those experiences, to talk about those, to have those conversations. I think what I even myself did not have when I was going through my training was having more in depth conversations about all the nuances of how culture and location and context have changed. And so where we are now and what are the things that are different and new. So those nuances of what the students are living through are important. Let’s say, for example, right now, we need to continue to talk about the pandemic and what does that look like, because we are going to have to deal with all the consequences of that. So that’s gonna be here for years and years to come. So that’s not just go away. So that’s something that the students that are in K through 12 education live through, and it has an impact on them. It has an impact in all of us. But then how is the school counselor going to embrace that, remember that, and make sure they have the space to convey the message about that and have the open spaces to go there. Also, the school counseling setup is different than if you are in private practice and if you are in a hospital or in a clinic. So it looks different. We are really part of a bigger system. So we are part of that educational system. We are part of schools. We are regulated by usually the Ministry of Education, whatever we are. And this is not just in the United States, but worldwide. And so that connection to the education system is very common and very strong, which means that we also have to fight the systems of oppressions that come with that. 

[19:24] Jasper: Yeah.

[19:25] Syntia: So that’s another thing that we want to include in our program, to have conversations about what is happening, how do we see those systems, what do we have access to, what are the laws and regulations that are happening. If we talk about within the United States, what is the state doing? And you know that we have a lot of conversations about things that are happening in the schools, things that are being banned. 

[19:46] Jasper: Yeah. 

[19:47] Syntia: Policies or laws that are passing through, about things that you’re supposed to talk about or not supposed to talk about, or how do we supposed to talk about it. And that’s difficult and it’s challenging and it’s very harmful for students, especially within those developmental years. 

[20:02] Jasper: How do you specifically support Latinx students as a school counselor and also when you’re thinking about training school counselors and affecting the next generation of professionals in this field? What I heard back from you is, it’s not like there’s one handbook and you can say this is how you do it. But instead that you have to be having these conversations and being open to learning more and thinking about how things are changing today or how a specific community is living. And just to continually have those conversations, rather than kind of closing yourself off and feeling like you know everything now. 

[20:43] Syntia: Well, definitely, and you have to be mindful of what are the practices that you’re following. For example, for our school counseling program, we have been very mindful from ground up. So we are building everything from scratch. So we have our four specialization courses that are new, that are above and beyond the basic core counseling courses. So we are doing a lot of work on what do we add to that? Even talking about decolonization, sorry, that word is complicated. Thinking about the articles that we’re using, thinking about the textbooks that we are using. Are we actually having diverse voices within our classrooms as we train students? Are we thinking on who we are? Are we giving enough space for the student to actually say, this is who I am, just as we did in the beginning. This is my positionality in life. So how is that gonna play out in the education system within the school? What do we do? We are really challenging as well the thoughts of our students in terms of, what are the great areas that people don’t talk about? What are things that are not clear? What happens if this is coming through the lens of culture? And it’s actually going against the traditional, very Western ways of looking at things. And that’s in everything, in the way that you approach it, in the strategies that you use as a counselor, within any ethical decision making and issues that are coming through you. How do you see that? How do you make decisions that actually consider that a person in front of you is not like you? 

[22:10] Jasper: Yeah. 

[22:11] Syntia: That is part of another community. And when we talk about the Latino community, in general, it’s the same thing, what do we know about them? Who are they? Where are they? What do they need? I always say, you do have to do your homework. You need to go and figure out, who are the people that you’re working with? And what do they need? Where are your own networks in terms of people that you refer them to, people that can give you more information, people that you have to consult? Again, we don’t know everything. So we need to rely on the expertise of others. 

[22:42] Jasper: Yeah. 

[22:43] Syntia: And so that’s really, really important. 

[22:44] Jasper: Yeah, and hearing you talk about trying to identify these systems of oppression, and in your thinking about what textbooks you’re going to use and what assumptions might be baked into those and what world views. I feel like we’ve been alluding to this a fair amount, but your specific point of view as an immigrant to the U.S., and also as somebody who has traveled between the U.S. and Honduras as where you make your home. My understanding of your work history is that after graduating from college in Honduras, you worked as a school counselor in Honduras. And then you came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship to get your master of education. And one of the conditions of the Fulbright scholarship is that you had to go back to Honduras and act in service as a educator. And so that was where you taught other school counselors in Honduras for five years. And then you returned to the U.S. to get your doctorate. And that eventually led you to your current work here at Antioch. 

[23:42] Syntia: That’s correct. Now my master’s in Buffalo, New York, out of all places was actually in a school counseling. 

[23:50] Jasper: Okay. 

[23:51] Syntia: So I was very specific on that as well. 

[23:52] Jasper: That’s great. It’s a very interesting and I think unique experience to kind of flip flop back and forth between these two cultures. And I’m curious how this traveling back and forth between cultures has helped you understand and really be able to see with a unique point of view, the systems that you’re working in. 

[24:10] Syntia: So definitely it has helped me tremendously. It has opened my mind to different perspectives and ideas. I am very slow in making assumptions. Like I’m actually assuming that I don’t know anything to be honest after all that journey. Knowing that there is a lot more to learn, a lot more to ask, and that has been important. I always tell my students too that you need to have a two second rule before you say anything, before you react, before you reject something. Just take those two seconds before you say anything and just take a deep breath and think about it. Why are you reacting towards? 

[24:46] Jasper: Yeah. 

[24:47] Syntia: What is it before you do it? So I think this idea of knowing different people, of knowing the United States, but I also knew a lot of international students and a lot of international person, people, professionals. And so that also gave me a different layer of their points of view and who they were and having that curiosity and that humility of actually learning from it. I also made a lot of mistakes along the way. I made a lot of assumptions along the way. I was challenged a lot and especially from international. So thank you to all my international friends. A lot of amazing dinners and conversations and music chair. 

[25:24] Jasper: Yeah. 

[25:25] Syntia: So just having that experience, I really will tell anybody to do it, to travel, to get out of your comfort zone, to get out of your space that you know. I always tell my students too, can you think about how your circle of friends look like? Are they all like you? Can you get more perspective and experiences? So that’s what I got. Not to mention specifically in the school counseling, just ideas of learning about the actual field. So I did learn about school counseling since I was doing college. So in Honduras, because of resources, because of opportunities for study, for further study, for graduate school studies, we have a level down in terms of who does what. So to be a school counselor, you need a bachelor’s degree instead of a master’s. So that’s what’s happening in the United States. 

[26:13] Jasper: Yeah. 

[26:14] Syntia: And many other countries. So the same with teaching, instead of having a PhD, you need a master’s, because there are not many opportunities for people to do PhDs in Honduras. It’s following the trend and following what is available for the country to actually do it. One of the things that was so amazing for me when I came and did my master’s is that many of the things that we were learning were things that I already knew. 

[26:36] Jasper: Mm-hm. 

[26:37] Syntia: I have learned about this before I knew this. And obviously it was a lot of translations in the way, a lot of second hand information and interpretation. But we have the content, we have the basic knowledge of the, especially the more traditional way of looking at counseling and mental health. So we have all of that. So one of the most interesting experiences for me was to actually see now that I was in the United States and I learned English, was able to listen to very old videos of people speaking in English that were big names in psychology and in the counseling profession. And I was fascinated. It’s like, that’s how they sound like. That’s what they meant. This is exactly what I was thinking of, or this is, I was so wrong. And so far off from the way that they were interpreting that. And so it was like an open door in terms of, okay, now the language is helping me to have another idea, another perspective, see other things, listen to other people. Having newer information of what’s happening in the United States and what the researchers are doing here. But I also was very appreciative and value of all the things that we are doing in Honduras. And so we tend to minimize what it is that we’re doing. And I’m like, I knew it, we were doing well, we were learning these things. We talk about it in the same way. We use similar words and we do the similar work. So that was very validating to the work that we do in Honduras as well. And so there is a lot of connections there in terms of helping each other, supporting one another, sharing knowledge with one another and sharing experience. So that’s one of the things that I love doing, is building relationships and building bridges to have more opportunities to talk about different things. And that’s something that the profession has been talking about for decades now, especially when we think about a global world. And we think about internationalization of the profession, is that how do we do it? What do we do to make sure that we are connecting, the world is connected, it’s very interconnected no matter what. So how do we take advantage of that? And how do we share knowledge with being very careful about respecting the local knowledge? 

[28:45] Jasper: Yeah, well, I was hoping that you could tell us a little bit. I know that the program that you’re launching in the fall, you have a plan within there to bring Antioch students to work and study in Honduras and have an exchange with other students studying at the National Pedagogical University there. Can you tell us a little bit about those plans? 

[29:04] Syntia: Yes, we are really excited. I just actually got the final draft for the signatures to go on in terms of a memorandum of understanding. We have been working a lot. I am always connected with Honduras. That’s my home. I have family there, my story starts there. And so I have continued to have contact with them since I left. And so it has been really important for me to take that step to do something more official. But we have always been in contact and having opportunities to just connect, for me to go and talk, or for them to have conversations with us, to answer questions, to help in any way I can. And they have been invited to the symposium for the Latinx Institute, for example, they are always invited. 

[29:47] Jasper: I love that. 

[29:48] Syntia: And now that we are going to open a school counseling program, it’s even more important because that’s what they have in Honduras, in that specific university, is a school counseling program. And so we want to even make more connections there to be able to talk more about school counseling and have opportunities to really have those conversations. In the past, I have done that before. So I have taken a group of students from the United States to Honduras. 

[30:12] Jasper: What was that like? 

[30:13] Syntia: It was fascinating. It was so weird. [LAUGH] It’s so fantastic. 

[30:17] Jasper: Yeah. 

[30:18] Syntia: It’s a very different experience for me because literally I’m taking people to my home. So that’s a very different experience than taking it to tour any other country, right? I’m opening the door for you to come here, and I’m showing you the good and bad of my country. And so I was very intentional about making something that was not a touristic trip, that it was not a very surface level trip. I really want them to have full immersion. They were with Honduran people all the time. 

[30:49] Jasper: That’s beautiful. 

[30:51] Syntia: All the time. They visit different cities. They visit different regional universities within my former alma mater. They talk to different people, including people from the US Embassy, just talking about their experience of living in Honduras. They have activities together. They did a health wellness type affair in the university with my students in Honduras, my former students in Honduras. So they were pairing with students in Honduras, obviously with language barriers and all. Google Translate goes a long way there. And they were trying, they were making it work. They did a lot of fun things together. They did a lot of work together. They did presentations together. And so it was a fantastic experience. And I also got to show them different parts of the culture and not just the narrative that you have in media. 

[31:40] Jasper: Yeah. 

[31:41] Syntia: And not just information of, oh poor people, oh poor nation that is always needing you and needing saving. 

[31:46] Jasper: Yeah. Hearing this story, I mean, that sounds like an amazing trip. And just thinking about being a student, that just sounds like a potentially transformative experience. But thinking about it from both sides, I love that you keep saying, it’s a conversation. There were conversations, there were joint presentations. And- 

[32:04] Syntia: Yes. 

[32:05] Jasper: Your earlier story of coming as an international student to get your master’s and being in Buffalo, New York of all places. Watching these old videos of the people who were establishing school counseling as a profession and recognizing that you had previously encountered these same ideas in translation. These seem to me like different models. One is ideas are generated in the United States and then kind of disseminated out to the world in translation. But of course, school counseling in Honduras, all of these people working in these jobs and having insights and the profession, of course, evolving. It seems clear to me that in those conversations, it was not a one way street in the same way. When you brought students there and in your own work, there’s so much to be learned on either side. 

[32:53] Syntia: Sure. 

[32:54] Jasper: This is less of a question, but it just kind of inspires me to transform a model of hierarchy into one of kind of collaboration. 

[33:02] Syntia: I love that. Thinking about that relational cultural theory for me, it’s like, that was amazing when I learned about that. It’s like, yeah, that’s different. Now it makes more sense. Again, more tied to who I am and tied to my culture as well, my collectivity way of seeing things. And I saw that live when I took the students to my country, because that was so different way of thinking. You see it right there in front of you. I was very privileged of taking a few students that were part of historically marginalized populations in the United States. 

[33:32] Jasper: Okay. 

[33:33] Syntia: And so I took them to Honduras and it was just serendipitous. And I hope that I can actually make that more intentional and make it happen. More like a regular thing and try to help people to go to other countries, again, that are not part of the majority population. But in any case, that was the most salient thing that I learned from that trip and from the students was their opportunity to see themselves outside that label of being without privilege within that oppression view and system. Because when they were in Honduras, they were foreigners, they were Americans, they were the people with power within my country. 

[34:11] Jasper: Wow. 

[34:12] Syntia: They had more options, more resources, more access, more money than anybody else in the country. Definitely from all my students from that university in Honduras. 

[34:21] Jasper: Yeah. 

[34:22] Syntia: So even their interactions were like, wow, and the ability that Honduran people have of being very open to any culture and very welcoming and very free of supporting each other. So they were very easy to say, I will do this for you. I will take care of you. So they felt very taken care of, very protected, very like accompanied by for all the students. 

[34:46] Jasper: That’s so beautiful, yeah. 

[34:48] Syntia: Like, oh wow, we are not the people that the other people fear of, right? 

[34:53] Jasper: Yeah. 

[34:54] Syntia: We don’t have that experience of always watching over our shoulders of what’s happening. We have all these people, Honduran people, taking care of us. 

[35:01] Jasper: Mm-hm. 

[35:02] Syntia: We think whatever mean that meant, and I remember knowing that obviously we had everything and anything that is protected and safe for the American people in Honduras. And then I have my students in Honduras saying, but we wanna go. So we just go in whatever transportation means we can and we get there. And we’ll figure it out. And the difference was huge. Wow, okay, that’s a different life experience of who you are and how can you see yourself within those spaces. 

[35:30] Jasper: Yeah, I mean, that just expands one’s world to have an experience like that. That’s not just being a tourist. 

[35:35] Syntia: That’s right.

[35:36] Jasper: But actually being an honored guest. 

[35:39] Syntia: Exactly, and you were also mentioned a little bit of the history of the school counseling, and I have been dwelling into that as well and getting more information about it. And I know that we are following the footprint of the United States and all the powerful nations. I know that school counseling in Latin America was created based on whatever was done here. That actually most of the people that started the school counseling in Latin America were either trained here or were people that went there to train people in any of the countries in the Latin American region. And so we are moving towards, okay, there are some things that are not like a clear match. So nowadays, the profession is getting to more and more of those conversation of what does that mean? Even with this study abroad programs, what does that mean for you to actually go somewhere that is not your home? But like the foundational meaning of that experience, and again, the same thing for school counseling as a profession. How is that connected? How is that effective? How is that really working beyond just something that was done by the experts? But how are we connecting that to the local community? And the same is true for the local communities here, especially if those local communities are not the majority, not the white populations or the white states. So what happened there when these Western ideas or Western approaches do not work or do not feed on the characteristic of people? So that’s why going back to the circle of anti-racist and multiculturalism and how do we even have these conversations for us even to build the faculty team? Who do we want in that team? How do we want that to look like? 

[37:15] Jasper: Yeah, I appreciate you bringing it back to that and we are almost out of time. But that’s kind of where I see all of these threads coming together is in conversation, in a feeling that this profession is something that we can make of it, what we want or what we need. What will best serve us, serve students, serve our communities? And I feel like you have such a unique perspective on that. But it also sounds like you’re putting together a really thoughtful and powerful program to share that with other people. 

[37:47] Syntia: We are definitely trying and we are very passionate about that and my colleagues are as well. So we are hoping that we give at least the opportunity to have those critical conversations. 

[37:57] Jasper: That’s great. If you were speaking to our listeners out there who might be educators or school counselors themselves, also just parents or engaged community members. I’m curious if you can share some concrete actions that we can take to support our schools and our students and school counselors and keep building towards this more just and anti-racist world that we’ve been talking about. 

[38:21] Syntia: So I think one of the things that I said in the last conversation we had, Jasper, was, first of all, we all need to understand that there is always something we can do. Whatever that is, it doesn’t have to be great and huge, but that whatever you are, whatever your positionality is, there is something that you can do. That comes from even reading and educating yourself and getting the training that you need to be better, to serve better, to actually make the connections and the relationship with others, depending on who you are. Just connecting and having conversations is important. To have open spaces for people to talk to each other, and that is if you’re a parent, if you have spaces for your children, to learn what those spaces are, to learn more about what school counseling is. That’s even an advocacy action themselves. I do think that there is a lot of causes out there that we can support as well, that we want to support in terms of safety of our students, the value of culture, the opportunities to bring things to the schools. I do say to administrators, you have a great position to actually do more, to actually create spaces, to ask for resources, to connect people, to listen to what other professionals are saying. And for educators and school counselors to get resources, to advocate for those resources, to bring in voices, even for the libraries, for pictures, images, for celebrations in the school. What are we celebrating? How are we celebrating? What is the language that we’re using in the school? Are we being inclusive? Are we showing people different experiences? Are we allowing and respecting those different perspectives to showcase, to really highlight in what we are and who we are within the system? So whatever you do, from signing a petition, to be there, to have conversations, to invite somebody for a cup of tea, especially if they are a different culture. And that means families, friends, school classmates, and teachers, and educators, how do we do that? And that’s something that the school system allow more of, to have that community, to build that community. And that’s one of the things that I love more about that profession. 

[40:29] Jasper: That is so lovely, that encouragement, that there’s always something that you can do, and you just shared so many good ideas for what that thing could be. It’s been such a pleasure talking with you, Syntia. 

[40:40] Syntia: Same here. Thank you so much for just letting me share a little bit of my experience and perspectives, and just invite people to think about school counseling as an opportunity and as a career option. And we are here to answer any questions that you have, if that’s something that you want to explore. 

[40:55] Jasper: It’s been such a pleasure. 

[40:57] Syntia: Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. 

[41:02] Jasper: The Master of Arts in School Counseling that Syntia helped design is currently enrolling students from across the country, with classes conducted online, and then two week-long in-person residencies. We have a link to more information about that program in our show notes, and we’ll also link there to Syntia’s faculty page. We post these show notes on our website, theseedfield.org, where you’ll also find full episode transcripts, prior episodes, and more. The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University. Our editor is Johanna Case. I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk. Our digital designer is Mira Mead. Jen Mont is our web content coordinator. Stefanie Paredes, Georgia Bermingham, Grace Kurfman, and Lauren Arianzale are our work-study interns. We received additional production help from Karen Hamilton, Amelia Bryan, Adrienne Applegate, Jamila Gaskins, and Melinda Garland. Thank you for spending your time with us today. That’s it for this episode. We hope to see you next time. And don’t forget to plant a seed, sow a cause, and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch University, this has been The Seed Field Podcast.