Featured Alumna: Kaylei Jones, Class of 2010
Kaylei (Miller) Jones ’10 is an Elementary School Counselor working in rural Virginia. She was recognized as a Difference Maker by the Virginia Department of Education at a Division School Counselor Leaders Summit in the fall of 2020 for her work with supporting staff wellness during the pandemic. Kaylei is married to a fellow Brockport alum, Chris Jones who is a Physical Education teacher. They have three beautiful children.
What is your current position and what do you find the most fulfilling about it?
I am a school counselor at Buckingham Primary School. Counseling is such a rewarding career. I am very passionate about helping others. I fell in love with rural schools and quickly realized how much work there is to be done there! The most rewarding part of my current position is helping to orchestrate the pieces in which a child goes from barely attaining an education to learning and thriving. Each year we have several students whose behavioral, emotional, mental health or social struggles make it nearly impossible for the child to be successful in the academic setting. I love being a part of the solution and helping children make such great strides which impacts their ability to be successful throughout their educational career and beyond. These changes don’t happen overnight, but I am blessed to be a part of a team of professionals who fight for students daily.
Please describe your path from SUNY Brockport to your current position. What was the most valuable lesson you learned while at SUNY Brockport?
I married my high school sweetheart and a fellow Brockport alum following graduation. Together, we moved to Virginia where I completed my Masters in School Counseling at Radford University. I completed an assistantship as a resident director throughout my time at Radford which helped fund my education. Following graduation we moved to Farmville, VA where I served as the school counselor at Randolph-Henry High School for 7 years. During my time as a high school counselor, I also had the opportunity to serve as a site coordinator for the GEAR UP grant, improving access opportunities for low income, minority students seeking post-secondary education. This program was incredible for my students and allowed me to help them minimize barriers to their future goals. While at Randolph-Henry I achieved my National Board Certification in Counseling. During the fall of 2020, I transitioned into my new role as a primary school counselor working with K-2. I am blessed to work at the same school where my husband is the Physical Education teacher, and two of our three children attend. My role in K-2 education looks very different than it did in my work at the high school level. I do a lot of behavior intervention, emotional literacy, and social-emotional learning in elementary school counseling as opposed to transitions, mental health, and academic and career counseling at the high school. I love the versatility of my career and that each day is an adventure.
The most valuable lesson I learned at Brockport was to advocate for myself. I remember falling in love with psychology in my Intro to Psychology class and changing my major to psychology only to barely pass my first exam. When you love something but it’s challenging, you learn to fight for it harder. I realized that first semester that I have a lot of fight in me when I’m passionate about something.
What is your favorite memory from your time at SUNY Brockport?
I’ll be completely honest, I think having three kids has depleted my memory quite a bit. But…I really loved midnight movies at The Strand. I especially loved watching a movie that should have been scary but wasn’t because of the craziness of a theater filled with college kids at midnight on a weekend. I also loved the sand volleyball court outside my freshman building, nerf wars in the common areas, and the friendships that helped shape me into who I am today.
What advice would you give to current SUNY Brockport students? Any special advice for our psychology majors?
Yes! Make your time at Brockport fit your future goals! If you know what you want to do, run after it and don’t waste your time and money. I knew I wanted to be a counselor and the path to making that happen is very broad in the beginning. The blessing of a major in psychology, other than it being the most interesting field on the planet, is that you have a LOT of room to take classes in other fields of interest to complement your future career path. Instead of picking up a minor, I took classes in communications to help my future counseling skills. I took classes in substance abuse because I knew I would need some knowledge for my work with high school students. I was able to get elective credits through America Reads and even created my own internships to get my foot into the schools for more experience and to make sure I knew what I was getting into. And as a bonus I was able to build strong relationships with professors in various departments which helped me get great feedback on my resume and diverse recommendations for graduate school.
What learned skills and/or experiences from your time at SUNY Brockport were the most transferable or useful in your current position?
Psychology is a great foundation for so many careers. I rely on my knowledge of psychopathology, child development, and behavior theory daily in my career. I also feel that my experiences as a resident assistant at Brockport laid a foundation for my ability to manage crises and have challenging conversations.