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Olympic HS Behavioral Health Specialist wins CA Continuation Education Association Award
Posted 5/1/23

Carrie Buchek with mural and studentsOlympic HS Behavioral Health Specialist Carrie Buchek (center) stands with two students at the school in front of a mural of a phoenix rising with butterflies that she helped to coordinate based on students' ideas.


By Theresa Harrington Brandt

MDUSD Public Information Officer


The Mt. Diablo Unified School District is very proud of the wonderful work being done by Olympic Continuation High School Behavioral Specialist Carrie Buchek, which was recognized by the California Continuation Education Association last week! Carrie has been named a 2023 Counselor/Support Person of the Year by the organization and received her award on Saturday, April 29th at an annual conference in San Diego.


"It is specifically given to those who go above and beyond in their leadership with staff and dedication to student success while being heavily involved within their community," said Principal Courtney Lyon. "Carrie is all of those things and so much more. Olympic, and our students, are so fortunate to have her as a part of our team."


Carrie Buchek in her office


Buchek (above) started her career in the District in 2005 as a School Psychologist at Olympic and transitioned to working with students in the adjacent Alliance Social Emotional Educational Collaborative (SEEC) program. She took on the role of a Behavioral Health Specialist in 2009 when the District created these positions to directly serve students with mental health needs. She is now in her second year as a Behavioral Health Specialist at Olympic. "This is my dream job," she said. "I love it so much. It blends everything I love to do." This includes building close relationships with general education students who have experienced trauma through intensive therapy as a licensed clinical therapist and helping them to "believe in themselves and what they are capable of achieving after they leave us." Calling this "transformational work," Buchek said "it's always really exciting" to see students succeed. "Graduation is my favorite day of the year." (Olympic's graduation is June 3.)


Unlike an office therapist who works in isolation from the rest of the school, Buchek said she is very involved in the campus community and in supporting students and advocating for them when needed. She helps students understand why they are struggling and teaches them skills such as mindfulness and self-awareness to help regulate their emotions and get through moments when they are agitated without acting on them. Without these skills, some students may resort to self-destructive or self-harm impulses, such as drug use or fighting, she said. Her role includes helping students to figure out what's triggering these emotions and to pause before acting so they can make healthier coping choices such as self-soothing instead of self-numbing through controlled substances. Ultimately, she works to motivate them to reduce and change these risky behaviors. 


Students said she understands them. "She's cool," said a 17-year-old senior boy. "She cares about what you've got going on." A 17-year-old junior girl added: "She keeps it real. She talks to you straight up and doesn't lie to you, even if you don't want to hear it. When I first met her, I could see in her face that she was going to be someone I wanted to talk to." Calling her "a great person," a 17-year-old junior boy said: "She makes me feel comfortable. You could open up to her about anything. She wants to be there for everybody. If she sees you have a problem, she tries to help you fix it." 


Carrie Buchek receiving award

Carrie Buckek receives her 2023 Counselor/Support Person of the Year Award at the California Continuation Education Association Plus Conference on April 29, 2023 in San Diego.