Linden High School counselor Samantha Kosty has been chosen to receive the Unity Award for Achievement by an Educator from the Union County Human Relations Commission. She will be honored May 7. 

 

By Gary Miller

Math, forensics, education, psychology.

When Samantha Kosty was going through college, she didn’t know what she wanted to do for her career. She changed her major four times, and even after graduating with a degree in psychology from Rider University, she wasn’t sure what was next.

In retrospect, it may have given her the perfect real-world preparation for her job as a school counselor at Linden High School. Kosty has empathy for students who are confused in trying to find their own path in life.

“I think it gives them a little comfort to know that’s it’s OK to be undecided,” she said. “I met with my old school counselor when I couldn’t figure out what to do. She sat with me and told me that I’d always been really great with kids and to try something like this, and I absolutely adore it. It’s the best job.”

Her love for her work and her students helped her earn this year’s Unity Award for Achievement by an Educator from the Union County Human Relations Commission. She will be honored at a presentation at Kean University on May 7.

“She is, in fact, a student favorite, possessing a calm and friendly nature that most high school students look for in their counselors, and that the students’ parents truly appreciate,” the commission wrote. “She is truly a 21st-century educator.

“She stands apart because she always goes those extra miles to help students who are struggling with their work or classes, or are facing personal problems or family issues.”

Kosty, who grew up in Roselle Park, has been working at LHS since the 2011-12 school year. She said she was surprised when notified about the award, but is excited to accept it.

“I was very shocked,” Kosty said. “It’s a great honor, but I had absolutely no idea.”

Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi congratulated Kosty on her latest award and said it is well-deserved.

“Mrs. Kosty is always there for her students, whether they have a routine question about their schedule or a more serious family issue,” he said. “Her education and training prepared her to tackle whatever issue may come up, but her empathy and understanding make Ms. Kosty truly special and a valued member of our counseling team at the high school.”

Kosty was also named Linden High School’s 2017-18 Educational Services Professional of the Year earlier this school year. Principal Yelena Horre said she is “a tremendous asset to our LHS community.”

“She works closely with her students offering guidance and support to ensure that their time at LHS is happy and successful, and also ensuring that they are prepared for their future after high school,” Horre said. “Mrs. Kosty counsels students and assists families in navigating application process, student loans and much more.  She often works with teachers to ensure students are receiving the support they need.”

police with students and counselor in front of Linden High School sign

Samantha Kosty, third from right, works with International Baccalaureate students on community service projects known as Creativity, Activity and Service. She worked with students Miesha Burnam and Nyssa Joseph in the fall on a project known as Socktober that sold socks to raise money to help amputees. Linden police unions helped them reach their goal and donated the socks to homeless veterans. Pictured from left are Sgt. Joseph Birch, president of the Linden Superior Officers Association; Burnam; Backpacks for Life founder Brett D’Alessandro; Kosty; Joseph; and Officer Timothy Hubert, president of Linden PBA Local No. 42.

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Though she was undecided about a career, Kosty always knew she wanted to go to college, and her desire to help others steered her toward counseling.

“My dad’s a police officer and my mom’s a nurse,” she said. “Both blue-collar jobs that give back – and I kind of wanted to do the same thing.”

Kosty said that one of the challenges – and the rewards – of her job is that every day is different.

“You make a planner of everything you want to do, then when you walk in the door, throw it out the window,” she said with a laugh. “We have a lot of students that will come in to check on their grades, check on their progress. We have parents who are interested in summer programs or scholarship opportunities.

“We have kids walk in any time, with any issue. So you never know what we’re dealing with. We could be dealing with a family issue, a death in the family, a friend issue. You’ve just got to be prepared for it.”

Around this time of year, the counseling office is busy preparing to give students state-mandated standardized tests, while also setting student schedules for next school year and helping seniors with college applications.

“A lot of the seniors are super excited because they’re getting into their schools, but terrified because they’re leaving a comfort zone,” Kosty said. “So we help them work through that anxiety – and their senioritis. I try to say, ‘Listen, you just have to get through two more months!’ ”

Kosty has two master’s degrees, in counseling and educational administration, from Kean University, where she is now an adjust professor. She tries to pass along her own real-world knowledge, teaching family counseling to prospective school counselors.

“The program at Kean is great, but you don’t always learn what you’re going to do,” Kosty said. “It’s nice to teach them exactly what they’re going to walk into – the upset parents, or the kids who walk in with a crisis, or the added administrative tasks.”

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In her job at Linden High, one area that she oversees is eighth-grade orientation and helping students make the transition to high school life. One hurdle she has to overcome is the misconceptions that some students and parents have about Linden High School.

“We understand that,” Kosty said, “but we tell them, ‘Send your student here for a day. Let them see what it’s really like.’ We’ll take them through the school, we’ll have them pair up with a student who has similar interests. They can go to the actual classes, they can meet the teachers, they can go to the Media Center. Just give it a chance.”

The “Tiger for a Day” program allows students from Soehl and McManus middle schools experience life at LHS and to learn about all the school offers.

“I had a student and a parent come up to me at eighth-grade orientation and they were on the fence about whether to do our computer science or go to [Union County Vocational Technical Schools],” Kosty said. “And I said, they’re both great, however, vo-tech is going to focus solely on the program the student is enrolled in. Whereas here, they can do computer science, but there are so many other options of things they can do as well. We offer a lot, and sometimes the parents and the students just don’t know that we offer it.

“For example, if they’re interested in the dance program – obviously we have a fantastic dance program – but they want the academic rigor, we have the International Baccalaureate program, which we’ve had great success with – students at Princeton, students at NYU, I just had a student who got a full ride to Howard. It does pay off.”

Technology plays a big role in the job Linden’s school counselors do, getting the word out about scholarship opportunities, summer programs, career-readiness programs, SAT prep. Kosty said they use a range of platforms to make sure students stay informed.

“We want to know the most up-to-date apps for the kids to use,” she said. “It’s taking an extra step, but it needs to happen because they’re more tech savvy than we will ever be. The more information we can send to their phones, their computers, the better off they’re going to be.”

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After all the hard work of making sure students are supported emotionally and socially, and that they are prepared for whatever life has in store after graduation, Kosty gets to enjoy her favorite part of the job.

“I love when I see my students succeed,” she said. “When they come back and say, ‘Thanks for listening. Thanks for being there when I needed somebody.’ Seeing them happy, seeing them succeed.

“We have a lot students who come back after they graduate, and it’s good to see how far they’ve come.”