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SLPS counselor is a real-life superhero to students

Knyedra Ogunnaike said her own experience navigating grief has helped her connect with her students

ST. LOUIS — When parents or teachers can't get through to kids, they call real-life superhero Knyedra Ogunnaike.

“My responsibility is to help these children achieve academically, emotionally and socially,” she explained.

Ogunnaike is a school counselor in the St. Louis Public School District. She estimates she’s seen more than 100 kids this year, many of them on a regular basis.

In her 23 years as an educator, Ogunnaike said she must admit this year has been especially difficult for young people.

“Everything in their life changed,” she said. “Imagine being a child and not having the ability or experience to help you through this pandemic. A lot of them are so young, so they didn’t know what was going on.”

Many children are navigating a number of challenges for the first time, from anxiety and stress to losing a loved one.

Ogunnaike said her own experience navigating grief has helped her connect with her students.

“My son Brandon passed away in 2017 at 19 from juvenile type 1 diabetes,” she said. “I think that going through all this in my personal life has helped prepare me to be a better counselor because I can talk to them about real raw emotions.”

Along with traditional counseling services, Ogunnaike incorporates yoga, exercise, jumping rope and bubble blowing into coping strategies for children.

“You name it, we do it and it’s a part of what we have to do in order to keep going,” she said.

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