Staples: Lakeway counseling serves students’ academic and spirit

Director of School Counseling Alani Staples helps students find the right path to achieve their goals.

The multi-pronged mission at Lakeway Academy is to ensure students are in a learning environment in which they can succeed with the long term goal of becoming who God has called them to be.

Helping students and their family find that path is the goal of Director of School Counseling Alani Staples.

“We’re here to serve students and families and just the community to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of our students,” she said. “And, of course, that’s always embedded under the guise of spirituality first and the relationship with Christ.”

In some ways the role is the same as a guidance counselor in a public school, working with students to ensure they’re on the right path.

“We work with students to make sure they’re taking the appropriate classes, to make sure they’re not just taking a class just for the sake of it, but they understand the purpose and the meaning behind it,” she said.

Staples, whose husband Curtis is the director of advancement and basketball coach, however notes that her role doesn’t stop at the academic.

“To help them understand what has God called them to do, what are their strengths what are their weaknesses how can we help support them in that,” she said. “That may mean having a place of them to have an opportunity to express their hearts, whatever barriers there might impede their learning we’re here to help them in that regard to ensure they can be their best selves.”

Staples also works with parents to make sure they have the necessary resources and understanding to help the child on the journey to adulthood.

“We provide them with resources and partnerships to help make sure they’re on the right path,” she said.

For students who do not feel called to follow a college path, counselors provide career advising as well.

“We want to make sure they’re aware of opportunities outside of traditional college,” she said. “We want them to have vision and understand what that looks like.”

Staples has been in school counseling for seven years. Prior to that she did community-based counseling as well as crisis-based support.

“I’ve had a mix of background in terms of helping to be there in times of crisis,” she said.

That background includes case-management support for mental health for adults, families and children who were on the verge of being kicked out of their homes because their parents didn’t know what else to do.

“Really being in the thick of everything. Trying to be a base of support and helping people to see that there’s a way,” she said. “Give them hope and help them see the practical steps in that regard.”

Before coming to Lakeway, Staples worked in a public school setting. She said she loved meeting the various needs of the groups and subsections of people that form the community of a public school.

“My career has always been just helping other to see the best in themselves and meeting their potential,” she said.

The skills she’s built over her career have proven beneficial in her own life as well.

“Having a background in school counseling and crisis and mental health counseling has definitely helped me weather the storms,” she said. “Knowing I can have all the knowledge in the world but really it’s just relationships. Be there for people. People sharp and being calm in the midst of whatever situation may arise.”

A Virginia native who earned her Master’s from Liberty University, she said she and her husband came to Lakeway as a package deal.

They both felt called to come to Lakeway, she said.

“It was something that it was definitely a blessing and a calling,” she said. “We knew this is where we needed to be.”

Having worked with Lakeway students while they were housed as Cornerstone Academy, Staples said she’s excited to be there when the new facility opens and the tools available to help put students on the path to their future can be put to use.

“I’ve always said this is beyond anything we could think or imagine,” she said. “But that’s also the reality of what God has provided for us. To see it manifested in the physical form is just amazing.”

But she said, it’s not the football field, the performing arts center or the fancy science labs that will make the ultimate difference in students’ lives at Lakeway.

“I’ve often said we can have this beautiful building but it’s the people inside of it that’s going to make it amazing. That’s the part I get excited about, to be able to see that unravel and blossom and flourish.

“And so, even before this building came into existence, the vision of what this school has been about, that’s what excited me. Any and everyone who has come here has an opportunity to be a part of something that has set a standard of excellence and it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of it.”