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story.lead_photo.caption Central Missouri Newspapers Inc. photo/Julie SmithAmy Heflin, Russellville Middle and Elementary schools’ newest counselor, stands in the halls at the elementary school.

RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — At a young age, Amanda Heflin knew she wanted to work with kids. As the youngest child, growing up with two brothers and a sister, she recalls mental health concerns in her family. Since then, she knew she wanted to help other people.

Heflin is the newest guidance counselor at Russellville schools. She received her master's degree in counseling in May from Stephens College, Columbia. When the position opened, high school counselor Lucas Morris reached out to a former professor who recommended Heflin.

Since April, she has provided multiple services to more than 400 elementary and middle school students.

"I think the most challenging part (is) we have a lot of student needs and I'm only one person," Heflin said. "Also, there's a lot of problems I can't fix and the students can't fix. So, it's hard when you want to do something, but all I can do is be there."

She's referring to difficulties students may face at home, like divorce or a death in the family. Working one-on-one with students allows Heflin to develop a personal relationship with them. She knows their interests and goals and helps students with understanding social skills and planning.

In addition to responsive services, she also does career development, grade transitioning, planning and is in charge of guidance lessons and system support.

Heflin said she is glad to be in a community that cares about school efforts. For example, the Buddy Packs program, provided by The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, provides students in need with meals for the weekend.

"There is a bit of a stigma around some of the kids who get Buddy Packs, some feel a little embarrassed by it, but others don't," Heflin said.

Heflin said she purchases school supplies and hygiene products and keeps them in her office for those in need. To help ease the judgment students may feel, she'll discreetly deliver whatever they need. She said the mental health of these students is a top priority to her.

"If someone broke their arm you would obviously go to the doctor. But people don't think of mental health like that," Heflin said. "I used to be a teacher every school I went to, there were always those kids who needed (hygiene products and school supplies).

"I know they need it and, if I can buy it and provide it, I will."

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