School doubles student counseling resources


Photo by Zara Main '25

THE PEACEFUL PAIR Heidi Butz and KJ Johnson talk over ways to help students in the upcoming semester. “I want to be the counselor I needed ” said Johnson.

Zara Mian '25, School Staff

Faced with an increased demand for student mental health resources, Greenhills hired a new school counselor, KJ Johnson, doubling the number of school counselors on its staff.

Director of school counseling Heidi Butz cited several reasons why it was important to hire an additional school counselor. Butz noted that the school has seen rapid growth in recent years. She pointed out that there were 530 students at Greenhills when she began her position in the fall of 2016. With approximately 700 students in the school today, Butz said that one school counselor was not enough to meet the mental health counseling needs of the students.

“For the first time, Greenhills now has two school counselors, which is an awesome thing,” said Johnson. “So with that, the number of resources has doubled.”

Not only is the rising number of students contributing to the greater need for school counselors, but also the greater openness to seeking mental health support among students.  

“The positive thing is that in our society, the stigma around mental health is decreasing,” Butz said. “Students are more confident seeking out mental health support than in the past.”


She also stated that due to increased stress during and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, more students are reaching out for mental health resources.

“We both are here to support students during the school day in their social and emotional well-being,” Butz said.

Other resources that are available to students and community members include the peer-to-peer mental health awareness and outreach club in the upper school, which is sponsored by the school counselors. Butz and Johnson also have educational and community resources.

“We [the school counselors] are here to provide counsel when students are having a hard time. And when I say the hard time I’m not just meaning at school, but also in life,” Johnson said. “We both have access to outside resources that we share with students and families when we feel as though more help or expertise is needed.”

Johnson described his role as school counselor as an ambassador for mental health, equity, acceptance of self and others, and community.  He also noted that as a school counselor, he partners with different departments, teachers, and families. He described the sixth grade Successful Student Habits lesson focused on stress and stress management that he recently taught with learning specialist Allie Kaplan.

“That’s what school counseling has become. A beautiful partnership between all with the main goal being, equipping students with all that they need to live a fulfilling and healthy life. In whatever way that looks for them,” Johnson said.

From what he has seen in his first three months at the school Johnson highlighted a need to help students realize that they do not need to be in a “full-blown crisis” to come to see the school counselors.

“Test stress, pre-game nerves/fear, working through an argument with a friend/classmate. These are just a few of the things we can and do talk with students about,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that he has not experienced students coming to him to talk as much and he has sought out students to talk.

“[W]e need to continue efforts to dismantle what perfectionism is. I saw this quote, I don’t know who the author is but it said, ‘Perfectionism is a delusion that can rob one of a very successful, enriching life if not careful,’” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that his journey to becoming a school counselor was not traditional. Initially, he considered becoming a physical therapist and studied exercise science. After graduation, he made the hard realization that physical therapy was not for him and started working as a paraeducator.

“It wasn’t until after I volunteered at my old high school to run the LGBTQ+ support group that I realized I wanted to be a counselor,” Johnson said. Ultimately, he pursued a second degree with a major in psychology and then, went to graduate school to receive a masters in counselor education.

Anjana Kanakamedala ‘24, who has advocated for mental health resources, said that the Greenhills community was very supportive of her while facing mental health challenges until it interfered with academics. She noted the greater need for balance between academic and wellness.

“I would like to see more communication between counseling, the learning center and students as well as more vessels of people who can help,” Kanakamedala said.

In describing her own experience with mental health challenges, Kanakamedala said that as much as teachers tried to help, “the reality is that the Greenhills community can be very harsh for someone who does not fit the definition of normal.”