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I remember a conversation that I had with one of the vice presidents of a local university. This was during my first life, when I worked in college admissions.

We were teasing through the numbers, trying to determine which of those newly admitted students might actually enroll in the fall. I remember him referring to “the moment,” the instant when a student steps onto a college campus and makes a connection to — feels a part of — the campus.

It made perfect sense.

There is this thing, this feeling that students get when they realize that they are part of something bigger, grander. It’s the thing that we don’t always talk about, and it’s hard to measure.

But it drives us.

My school community is diverse and vibrant and exciting and brimming with potential.

And it is poor. It is not unusual for several of my brilliant seniors to tell me that they will be the first in their family to graduate from high school. Many others, when they head off to college, are the first in their families to do that, also.

The affective learning that happens in a high school supplements the academic work that happens in the classroom. There is a synergy; one reinforces the other. As a school counselor, I have the privilege of supporting both types of learning. When our students graduate, our goal is that they feel not only prepared but empowered.

Why do I counsel where I counsel? It is because I want to help my students find their “moment,” when they uncover that feeling of ownership and of entitlement. This is when they understand that they are full-fledged members of a global community with the power to effect change.

Mary Gilbert is a school counselor at the University of Rochester Educational Partnership Organization at East middle and high school in Rochester.