'All parents and kids need a counselor like this'

When Tanner Locklear graduated last month from Independence High, his mother knew counselor Elizabeth Howie helped his midyear graduation dream come true.

"I am so thankful for the work she helping Tanner get across that stage," said his mother Kelly Frew. "I adore her and so does my son. She is a true advocate."

Howie, who joined the Independence staff last year, met with Tanner who had a goal to graduate early. "That's a big undertaking and it can be disheartening to not meet your goals," she said. "I partnered with his teachers and mom to make sure we could help him meet that dream."

Howie and Frew established frequent communication to help keep Tanner on track.

"She took Tanner under her wing and spoke to him almost daily," said Frew. "She kept me well-informed. She is a true advocate."

After 13 years as a middle-school counselor in Gaston County, Howie made the transition to CMS and high school last year. "The students are closer to leaving school at this age, and I really enjoy helping them figure out what is next," said Howie. "I tell them all that I just want them to be successful members of society and support themselves. Whether they're going to college, the military or the workforce, we need to figure that out and help them get there."

Howie, an Indiana native, is a graduate of St. Mary's College and the University of Dayton. She was always interested in psychology. When she started teaching swimming lessons, she realized she had a passion for working with students. "That moment when they get it is amazing," she said. "There is nothing like it."

One of Howie's professors suggested she look into school counseling. "The rest is history," she said. "I absolutely love it."

Howie's office is a safe space for the students at Independence. She does some crisis counseling but mainly focuses on academic counseling. "The days go by so quickly," she said.

Independence has 2,098 students and Howie thrives in the school's culture. "We are so diverse," she said. "We have students here from all over the world and I've really gotten to learn more about other cultures and backgrounds."

Frew is certain her son's early graduation wouldn't have happened without Howie. "All I ever wanted for my son was a better life than the one I created for myself," she said. "He did it, but we also have to thank Ms. Howie for this. All parents and kids need a counselor like this."

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