By Robert Lucke
Kay Nessland thinks of herself as a changer of tires. The long-time Havre High counselor says that often times students just get into a bad rut. She is there to help them change that rut and get into a better mode. It pays great dividends for years to come.
Nessland came to Havre from Libby to attend Northern Montana College.
"My brother went to Northern and I wanted a smaller college. I was interested in teacher education and they had a good teacher education program. For me, it all fit together," said Nessland.
After marrying and graduating with majors in business and physical education, Nessland went to work teaching business, physical education and coaching in Rudyard for four years. Then an opportunity opened at Havre High and she went to work there. While living in Havre, Nessland got a master's degree in guidance and counseling because it seemed like it fit into her classes. And as luck would have it, as she finished her graduate work, there was a counseling opening at Havre High. Twenty-three years later, she is still at it. Why? The reason is simple.
"I like the kids. I think they keep you young and enthusiastic. And there are the friends you develop on staff. You know that is my main social circle, my friends at school," said Nessland, smiling. "And the great administration we have now. I love that!"
Then there is the challenge that nothing is ever quite the same.
"The job is always challenging. It is never dull or boring. There is always something new and different. I have an opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of students and with extra curricular activities. They are fun too," admitted Nessland.
Downside to the job? Not for Kay Nessland. There is no downside. Period.
However, things are not any easier than they were a few years ago.
"When I started, there were a lot of drug and alcohol problems. Then we started lots of programs and things got better. But now I think it is swinging the other way again," said Nessland.
"And these days more than ever, there are lots of family pressures with people trying to keep their heads above water," Nessland continued. "Many families are not able to spend much time with their children. People are just so busy these days."
Nessland believes that television can influence kids in a negative way. The way that drinking, drugs, social pressures, and sexual situations are presented on many television shows does not help young people in making clear choices. And there again, busy parents just don't have time to do much about those kinds of problems.
"I think that there are lots of people struggling financially in Havre. Even healthy families struggle," said Nessland. "Everything is so expensive and that does not even look to the pressures of sending their children to college."
Schools these days are filled with many students from single family homes.
"And you know, the putting all that pressure on just one person instead of two just compounds the problems," Nessland said.
"We get a lot of kids these days who don't like what is happening at home so they just move out. They get apartments or live with friends. Lots of times they are not too successful in school. They work a lot to pay for where they are living and school becomes secondary," said Nessland.
Not only that, but there are more and more students who are parents themselves.
"We get kids, guys and girls both, who are parents and going to school," said Nessland. "I think they see the value of a diploma. In the spring of the year we work with seniors to get diplomas. I put my heart and soul into that. That diploma is so important!"
Nessland worries about schools and their own finances these days. Declining enrollments many times spell cutbacks. That can hurt the education of those still in the system.
In Havre, Nessland attributes some school successes to plenty of extra curricular activities.
"There are usually very positive things for kids to be involved with," Nessland added. "And usually you see a correlation with activities and the way that kids do in school."
Bottom line. Nessland in very optimistic about Havre kids when she looks into the future.
And most of them are optimistic about their own lives and futures, thanks to the work that Kay Nessland has done, and the help she has given those young minds to mature and make good choices.