Students have a lot on their plates: academics, social lives, home lives, sports, hobbies, and clubs. It can be a lot for a teenager to handle, and that’s why Portage High School has people like Emily Evans, a school advisor, who does social-emotional counseling and crisis intervention.
“Basically, I help students get rid of obstacles that are preventing them from being academically successful,” Evans said. “That’s whether it’s a personal issue or a lack of access to specific resources.”
As a college undergrad at Purdue University, she started out majoring in Biology, but her path shifted early.
“I quickly realized that I did not love Biology as much as I thought, so I switched my major to Psychology and declared a bunch of minors so that I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “When it came time to apply for graduate school, I met with a coworker of my mother’s, a social worker, who talked with me at length about her job and helped me decide that social work was everything I had been looking for.”
That social worker, Lauren, is just one of the people she credits for helping get her to where she is now. Evans also credits her parents, brother, and mentor Nicole Sliger for giving her the constant support and guidance she needs to be successful every day.
“There are so many important people in my life who have impacted me significantly,” she said. “I know that I’m leaving about a thousand names off of this list!”
Part of the reason she is so passionate about her work is her drive to advocate for mental health.
“I cannot overstate the importance of mental health and mental health education for children and adolescents,” Evans said. “So many children and adults are unaware of the services available to them and are negatively impacted by the stigma associated with mental illness and disability. My job is important because everyone deserves a chance to be successful, and some just need a little more help overcoming the barriers that biology or society put in their way.”
Outside of her work for PHS, she is also a sponsor for the Natural Helpers organization. Natural Helpers is a national mentoring program for junior and senior students that focuses on self-care, substance abuse, and other issues that often serve as roadblocks for students around the country.
“I believe that anyone can succeed if they have one person who believes in them wholeheartedly,” she said. “If I can help one person access a resource they need, or get out from under the weight of a negative stereotype, then I feel like I’ve done my job. That’s why I come to work every day.”
Evans was born and raised in Portage, and is a firm believer in the strength of the community.
“I think that everyone should know that we live in an incredibly diverse community, full of unique and valuable people,” she said. “I love that I live and work in a place where the community members are so willing to take action to help when a person is in need!”
During her free time, she is big on cooking, baking, running, reading, and of course, Netflix.