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Director of Counseling Alexandra McKnight ready to make a difference
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New Director of Counseling Alexandra McKnight ready to make a difference.

Growing up, Alexandra McKnight always thought she was going to a lawyer.

"I had a teacher tell me I had way too much passion to be a lawyer," Alexandra said with a smile. "(So) I went into the educational field."

It makes sense looking back. Alexandra, who is from Chicago, Illinois, grew up in that environment. Her mom was in the military for 22 years and also worked as a teacher.

"I love working with adolescents," she said. "I think they are great people with so much potential."

A self-described intense and strong-willed person, Alexandra is looking to share her knowledge and passion with the Westover community as the new Director of Counseling and Student Services, a position she started this fall.

"I think one of my biggest attributes is my ability to listen and emphasize," she said. "I try very hard to make people be seen, because I know what it feels like to not be seen, to not be listened to."

Prior to Westover, Alexandra did a fellowship at Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men in Chicago, where her role was similar to that of a social worker, where she taught an social/emotional character development course. Most recently, Alexandra, who received degrees from Duke and University of North Carolina, worked at Fair Haven Community Health Center as an individual therapist for adolescents and adults; prior to that, it was the Cedarhurst School at Yale.

She explained in her role as Director of Counseling she wants to get to know all students at Westover -- those who are stressed about school work and home life, and those with more intense emotional/mental health needs. She wants everyone to have a place to go.

"I strongly believe that every problem we see in the world walks through the door of our school," she said. "So it's a great opportunity and privilege to be able to meet with students and help them, and be a small part of their journey."

Alexandra, who works in the same building as the Health Center, explained wellness is a focal point of hers. Outside of Westover, she sits on a yoga non-profit board in New Haven and is a big advocate of breaking down stigmas about mental health, and wants to make the office space a place for everyone, regardless of the level of emotional need, and seeing that there's value in connecting with emotions.

"I love working with adolescents. I think they are great people with so much potential."

"I want to normalize wellness. I want to create a culture where students recognize they are a whole person," she said. "In order to be their best selves here and out there in the world to come, their whole self has to be nurtured."

New this year in the Health Center is a Zen Rom that was done in memory of Terri Connors Johnson '70 through the generous support of her classmates and family members. Unique pieces of southwestern inspired art selected by Terri's classmates and family hang in the Zen Room to signify a region that Terri loved.

The Zen Room project also precipitated the relocation and updating of the counseling spaces, now adjacent to the Zen Room.

Alexandra said this space is designed with the intention for students to go and collect themselves; where they can drop in, meditate, do yoga, or just give their brain a pause from the hustle and bustle.

Outside of her job, Alexandra is an avid gym rat "living at her crossfit gym," enjoys reading and is currently a fan of the show, "The Good Doctor" on Hulu. She said she decided on Westover because she loves being a part of a community where "we are challenging ourselves and those around us," something she said seems to be the mission of Westover.

"I'm not here to fix anyone. My job is to show students that I'm working with that they already have all their answers, all that is within them," Alexandra said. "And sometimes they just need someone to be a mirror to those things, to help them discover those things within themselves."