As a school counselor and mother, Marybeth Mell has had ample opportunities to be a role model for not only her own children, but hundreds of other children in her position as a school counselor at the Hamburg Area Middle School during the last 11 years.
Mell's children, Alex, HAHS graduate in 2009, and Austin, HAHS graduate in 2010, were the recipients of this encouragement at home. The tables turned two and a half years ago with the sudden loss of Mell's husband of 23 years, Shawn, a PA State Trooper and Lt. Colonel in the Army.
Alex Mell graduated from Duquesne University in 2009 with a double major in journalism and public relations, with a minor in philosophy, and is currently living and working in Pittsburgh.
Austin Mell is in the United States Marine Corps, recently married to his wife, Rebecca, and based in North Carolina.
Marybeth Mell explains that “both children were growing adult relationships with me, but the situation was rushed with Shawn's passing.”
To further describe the changes in her relationships with her children, Mell relayed a recent time when her pipes broke and she called her daughter, Alex, in Pittsburgh, crying in frustration. Mell explained, “It's like role reversal.”
She described how Alex said, “grow up. You can do this!”
Mell stated that Alex calls her daily and Austin keeps in touch as often as he can in accordance with his deployments.
“They're my rocks,” said Mell, and relayed how the loss of her husband, and her mother only a year later, really pulled Mell and her children together. The feelings as described by Mell were echoed by her daughter, as Alex complimented her mother as “the strongest woman I know. She has gone through the worst possible that she could go through, and she stayed strong for my brother and me.”
Mell, a graduate of Hamburg Area High School, has an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and Masters of Education degrees in Higher Education Counseling and Secondary School Counseling.
Mell said that initially “I went into counseling because of (HAHS teacher) Ned Light. He pushed you and made you think.”
She also credits her mentor, Susan Colunio, a retired school counselor, for encouraging her to pursue her chosen career. Mell discussed how her parenting techniques have carried over into her relationship with her students at the middle school.
She encourages “communication, communication, communication” and told the story of how she believes all children should be asked daily, “How was your day? What did you do? What did you learn?” as she did with her own children as they grew.
Mell also confirmed that she thought it was important as she raised her children that she was “always the parent, never the friend” and further explained how important it is to follow through on consequences.
When asked for her advice for the parents of growing children, Mell took a moment and thoughtfully replied, “Take the time to get to know your children. They are individuals that you made.”
It seems that Mell has provided a strong example for her own children and her students at the middle school, seamlessly combining her success story as a mother and her passion for her career.