Niles West Student Services Are Here To Help


Rabia Chatriwala

The social workers, psychologists and the assistant director of Student Services pose for a photo.

By Rabia Chatriwala, Staff Writer

Niles West’s Student Services can be helpful for any and all students. This department, located across the hall from the security and attendance offices, houses four social workers and four psychologists who exist to help students with any barriers to academic success. Often, those struggles are related to mental health, and according to school social worker Mary Leonardo, the staff wants students to feel “empowered about their mental health.”

“We’re really here to support students academically, so [students can come to us with] anything regarding their struggles with school,” Leonardo said.

Student Services supports students’ mental health through a multitude of resources.

“The bulk of our day is spent supporting students’ mental health, and we do that through individual counseling, group counseling and consulting with teachers and other staff,” school psychologist Adrian Gancarczyk said. 

Niles West social workers and psychologists want students to be able to come in and voice their concerns about themselves or about others close to them. Support can be long-term or short-term based on a student’s needs. Student Services works with both general and special education students. This means a student with an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) can come in for their mandated weekly minutes or a general education student can visit to receive support.

“We do provide psychoeducational groups that can work on coping skills, executive functioning skills, friendship skills, social skills,” Gancarczyk said.

 If there is an emergency situation, the social workers and psychologists recommend coming in right away, but if there is a recurring situation, it is recommended to go to the counselor’s office first so a counselor can communicate with the Student Services department and make recommendations based on certain needs. Not only does Student Services offer in-school counseling, but they also can refer a student to outside support services. 

Dr. Antwan Babakhani, the Assistant Principal of Student Services, wants to demystify how student services can help, and let students know that the department exists for the students to receive help in any way.

“We are all human, and if we just need time to talk to someone and to figure out strategies or just chill out and have an ear to listen, that sometimes is very important,” Babakhani said.

Babakhani hopes that Student Services can “help students navigate what they can do to be better versions of themselves.” Students are encouraged to come visit the Student Services department with any questions or concerns.