Holly Santero, News Editor
When walking down the hallway passing the nurse’s office, one may notice the small adjacent classroom whose doors are always open. This room is home to Teen Talks Counselor, Ed Milton, who is scheduled to leave NCHS on April 1st after counseling here for 10 years. Whether it be his impressive conduct and guidance skills, or the strong friendships he’s formed with students and faculty, Ed has left a monumental mark on NCHS and many will feel the affects of his absence.
For ten years, Ed has been counseling students as a part of the Kids in Crisis program. This program is not funded by the school and receives annual grants in order to continue operating at NCHS. The Teen Talks branch of Kids in Crisis is meant to offer a non-school personnel support outlet for students and families dealing with various issues. “There is a lot of research that shows that having a non-school personnel mental health professional 24 hours a week is very helpful for school climate,” Ed said. “At Kids in Crisis, we accept confidential calls from children and their parents, have a house in Greenwich where kids can stay to cool off until their situation betters at home, and even have an outreach program where we are able to meet with families within an hour confidentially.”
The faculty that have gotten to know Ed since his first day ten years ago also recognize the importance of his counseling work, and note the dually significant impact of his friendship. “As an administrator, I recognize how big of a deal it is that Ed is able to connect with so many types of kids and act as their main connection to the school,” Assistant Principal, Ari Rothman said. “On a personal note, Ed has been a dear friend to me all these years, and I know he’s someone I can always go to if I have a question or need to brainstorm.”
School nurses, who work in the offices next to Ed’s room, also note the significant impact that Ed has has on fixing family situations. “He has seen students, parents, and colleagues through crisis,” school nurse Josie Davies said. “I’ve heard him say before, ‘this is a crisis, we are going to turn this around, and we are going to turn this into an opportunity’, and I’ve seen him make that happen.”
The position, in which Ed was the first person to hold, is set to be filled after his departure to Staples High School. “I will be doing the same exact job at Staples, a town that has had a really tough year,” Ed said, referring to the two suicides that occurred at the high school in the span of one month. “I believe that I’m supposed to be at Staples. I think I provided something here, but the next person in this office is meant to be here too.”
With Ed moving on as the Staples High School Teen Talk’s Counselor, administrators are left with the task of hiring a well-fit replacement. “Whoever the new counselor is, if they have nearly the same quality of skills as a social worker and qualities of an individual, they will be easier to warm up to,” Mr. Rothman said. “We will get someone to do the job, but not someone to replace him. As the cliché goes, there are some really big shoes to fill.”
Along with the administration, the school nurses have also been connected both physically and emotionally to Ed through their neighboring offices and long-held friendships. “I’m really really going to miss him as both a respected colleague and as a close friend” Ms. Davies said. “I’m so grateful for what he’s brought to this office and what he’s brought to me. We are all very eager for him to be able to pursue new things that he deserves, but it’s definitely bittersweet.”
The outpouring appreciation for Ed and the emotional sentiments regarding his departure can also be seen through the various students he’s helped through Teen Talks. Although confidential, the messages that students have given to Ed express the impact he’s had on their lives. “Some of the kids wrote to me, ‘Ed Milton: He can be replaced, but never forgotten’,” he said.
Surrounded by a myriad of goodbye cards filled with loving messages from his students, Ed remains positive and confident about the work he has done, and remembers one of his favorite messages from a former student. “A brilliant kid once told me, and I’ll never forget it, ‘Ed, you’re a lot like a cast. The cast doesn’t fix the broken bone, but the cast just provides the support and structure so that the bone can heal,’” Ed said. “If there’s anything I can say to my kids, it’s thank you. Thank you for letting me be your cast, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your growth.”