Courtesy of Maddy Costello ('20)
Described as “effervescent” by one of her classmates at the University of Pennsylvania, Mollie Wraga is bringing her enthusiasm to Cherry Hill East while interning under Dr. Eileen Lynch in the Guidance Department.
Wraga has wanted to work in guidance ever since high school Honors Biology made her realize marine biology was not her calling. She is spending 600 hours interning at East to complete her second Masters degree as part of a dual program at UPenn that allows her to earn a school counselor certification along with a license in professional counseling.
At East, Lynch is her site supervisor. Wraga is at East three days a week, making phone calls to parents, writing emails, working directly with students and doing other hands-on work in the guidance department.
“I don’t think you learn what to do when you’re watching someone,” said Lynch. “So I really like to get her involved right away. I’ve taught her Genesis and how to schedule, and she makes appointments and meets with students one-on-one. I supervise her, but I really let her do the job, because that’s really how you learn.”
Wraga found herself drawn to high school guidance because of her interest in helping people, especially students.
“I realized that I really like helping people, and the best way to reach teenagers is in a high school setting,” said Wraga. “I think [adolescence] is the coolest time of life, and I would like kids to know that if they ever want to talk to me, please do, because I love hearing about the things that you guys are doing.”
Last year, Wraga interned at a K-8 school in West Philadelphia, where she worked with many underserved kids. Many of the students that she worked with would act out due to their traumatic experiences. Though she still wants to work in an inner-city school some day, she is doing her internship at East after her supervisor recommended that she spend some time in a suburban environment in which she could focus less on crises and more on honing her guidance skills.
“[In Philadelphia], there were a lot of days that I would come home and I felt like there was unfinished business. I found myself worrying about a lot of students,” said Wraga.“ I was being consumed by these young kids that were having these experiences that I will never understand, [but] it showed me that I wanted to be in a high school, and it also showed me that these kids need someone, and I feel like I can be that person for them.”
Wraga has enjoyed her experience at East so far. She finds it remarkably similar in culture to her alma mater, Clearview Regional High School. In addition to interning in the guidance department, she may help coach the Junior Varsity lacrosse team in the spring, if her class schedule allows. Another thing she enjoys about East is how driven the students are.
“The one thing that did surprise me is the competitive nature,” she said. “I think it’s really wonderful that the students here are aiming high and a lot of [them] are so involved in so many different things… and it helps me push myself too.”
Though she enjoys the hard-working mentality at East, Wraga also stresses the importance of mental health and taking care of yourself to students with whom she works.
“I feel like one of the big things that I’ve been trying to convey to the students that come in and [are] so anxious that they’re shaking, is [to] think for a second [about] what they are doing to take care of themselves,” she said.
Lynch has found that Wraga is enthusiastic and interested in guidance. Wraga sometimes beats her supervisor to school in the morning (after going to the gym at 4:30 a.m.), and she is always willing to help out.
“She’s very much a natural and even just with her rapport with students, her enthusiasm, I can tell that she loves doing this,” said Lynch. “It’s exciting to see her really embrace the position and realize this is really what she wants to do.”
No matter where Wraga ends up, be it suburbia or inner city, she wants to help students and be an advocate for them.
“Not many people get to do exactly what they were meant to do and that’s what I’m doing,” said Wraga. “I go home at the end of the day and I can’t believe that I’ve made it this far… At the end of the day, I’m doing what I love and I love what I do.”