Ms.O Overcomes Adversity to Fly into the Hearts of Newcomers
By Shefa Islam and Rohit Pollock, Junior Writers
Ms. Olechowski is the Guidance Counselor of Newcomers SLC at Hillcrest High School. She has been working in Hillcrest since 2006 after starting as a substitute teacher. However, as she started interacting with kids, she realized that she really enjoyed getting to know the kids on a personal level. This motivated her to become a guidance counselor.
Ms. Olechowski was born in a hospital across the street from the Queens Center Mall and she grew up in Flushing. She recalled, “I had a great childhood and enjoyed my high school years tremendously at Forest Hills High School."
After she finished high school, she went to college to follow her passion, which was to become an Airline pilot. She majored in Aeronautics and Applied Mathematics. One thing most people don't know about her is that she has a private pilot’s license. However, in her senior year of college, Ms. Olechowski's father had a very tragic car accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. She was the only child in her family, so when her parents got divorced, she had to take the full responsibility. She had to take care of her dad which made college impossible for her, nearly causing her to drop out. Even though her parents got divorced, her mom still helped her dad through everything. She still supports her with anything she needs.
Ms. Olechowski’s career was affected because of what happened in college and in the times afterward. She wasn't sure if she still wanted to have a career as a pilot. She was confused, but other than having a passion of being a pilot, she was also interested in teaching. Teaching had always interested her when she was young so she wanted to try that out for a while. Since she enjoyed interacting with the kids on a personal level, after talking to the students in small groups and one on one, she was surprised at how much of an impact it had and that it really made a difference to them. This motivated Ms. O and she eventually became a school counselor. She affirmed,“it is okay to not know what you want to do with your life and that if you do know now but then change your mind, that is okay too."
While working as a guidance counselor at Hillcrest, she had an impact on many teachers and students. Junior Farrah Julien said, “To be honest, I've never met someone so amazing in my life, she is like my second mother, advisor, guidance counselor, a helper, a friend, a sister because every problem you have she is willing to help you no matter what, and she is willing to defend you. She keeps it real and tells you right from wrong. She cares about you. She will never let you make decisions that will make you fail. She will do everything in her power to make you succeed and to reach your goal. I've been in this school for 3 years and she's everything I have and I don't know what I would do without Ms. Olechowski. She's an amazing person. I am in love with her; she touched my heart."
Other than being a school counselor Ms. Olechowski has other work experience as well. She worked in a doctor’s office, a math tutor, as she also worked in a video store, in a hospital, and as a teacher. Her husband and her went to Forest Hills High School together and have been a couple since 10th grade. They worked here together at Hillcrest for one year when he was one of the original founders and directors of the Humanities SLC, which is now The Academy of Media, Arts, and Music.
Ms. Olechowski is a relatable person who is loved and supported by many students and teachers at Hillcrest High School.
Ms. O has touched the lives of many students who need guidance as they not only navigate through high school but through a new country as well. Ms. Ramjan, the Director of Newcomers said, “Ms. Olechowski has been working at Hillcrest for 9 years, so for the past 9 years, she has been part of the Newcomers family. She's always been very supportive and understanding of her students' needs.”
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