SCHOOLS | February 13, 2021
Throughout Black History Month, Chicago Public Schools will be highlighting exceptional students and staff who are leaving their mark on the district. Visit the CPS Blog until the end of February to meet these incredible contributors to our school communities.
Dr. Venisa Beasley-Green will always remember what prompted one of her first aha! moments as a school counselor. She was visiting a class to teach them about emotions and feelings, and before she started her presentation, she asked the students if they knew who she was.
One boy excitedly raised his hand and exclaimed: “You’re the copy lady!”
She knew her role was a lot more important than making copies, and in that moment she realized the problem: school counselors did not promote themselves enough.
“Students had misconceived notions of who I was and my role at the school, so I vowed from that day on that no student in the building would ever not know how I could help them and their family,” she said. “I started making postcards and pamphlets with my picture on it and telling students that I could help them with their academics, socially, and even what they were going to do in terms of college and career.”
She’s stuck to that vow throughout the years. Recently, she mailed out a new set of postcards to remind students and families of how she can support them as them learn remotely, but the definitive focus of her entire career—both at the elementary and high school level—has always been on college and career readiness.
When she served as a high school counselor in the 2000s, she got to know a student who was commuting from Englewood to attend her high school on the Southwest Side. She knew that he had a traumatic upbringing in a lot of ways—no one in his family had graduated from high school—and she became his trusted friend.
“He kept coming to my office, and if you come to my office, it’s the Office of Love,” she said. “I have a huge heart shaped red rug when you walk in, because you are either going to bring some love in or take some love out. Either way, you are going to experience love in my office.”
With his time in high school winding down, Dr. Green offered him the opportunity to attend a college visit at a historically Black university in Ohio that she thought would be a good fit for him.
“He cried and cried and said: ‘You think I can go to college; they don’t do that where I’m from, but if you think so, I will go only if you go with me,’’ she said. “I told him to meet me at 5:30 a.m. at 87th and the Dan Ryan to catch the bus. I would see him there.”
With her toddler in tow, she met him there to take the four hour bus ride to secure his future. She paid his $35 money order to go on the college visit—an act that paid dividends many years later when she unexpectedly ran into him at a college fair as a graduate of that same school now recruiting the next generation of high school students to attend. She has had countless stories like this during her career.
A graduate of Lane Tech High School, Dr. Green knows about the heaviest traumas that students carry with them. Her mother, a ward of the state, had her as a teenager, and her father has been incarcerated most of her life. She remembers the small ways these circumstances impacted her experiences in school and finds creative ways to uplift all students regardless of their background.
Something that impacted her time during her to school was feeling self-conscious about not having new or nice clothes to wear. Knowing this issue has persisted—especially among female students—she works hard to make sure her school community is inclusive.
Recently, she organized an event called Girls with Pearls to celebrate the election of Kamala Harris as the first Black female vice president.
“I brought 160 girls together virtually and had pearl necklaces delivered to each of their houses,” she said. “We all got dressed up to celebrate the historic moment and had a great, great day.”
As she looks back on all she’s accomplished with CPS—at elementary schools, high schools, and even a stint at Central Office managing the district’s Freshman Connection program and delivering professional development to school counselors—Dr. Green says nothing can compare to the joy of having a conversation with students about what they aspire to be. She calls them “Real Talk Conversations” and often uses examples from her own life to inspire students to keep learning.
“I tell my students that even though I have multiple college degrees in a variety of areas, I am still seeking to learn and to grow,” she said. “Even when you think you are full, you must continue to be hungry because there is always something new to learn.”
Dr. Venisa Beasley-Green has allowed her nearly 30 year career with Chicago Public Schools to take her all over—even to the White House to work with first lady Michelle Obama and her Reach Higher team! She is currently the school counselor at Carver Elementary School serving Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens community.