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April 29, 2014 | 02:30 PM
WALWORTH — He started as an intern with a nine-month commitment at Big Foot High School.

He never left. That was 21 years ago.

School guidance counselor Bob Sullivan said it was a mid-life career change.

"I knew (then) that I wanted to direct my life in a different area," Sullivan said. "My wife suggested school counseling."

Sullivan had prior experience with counseling at-risk kids, though he wasn't certified as a school counselor at the time.

"I'm so appreciative of (the administration) taking a chance on me," he said. "I really surprised myself with how long I stayed at Big Foot."

Sullivan said he often feels as though there isn't enough time in the day to do all the things he wants to do.

"It's an unpredictable schedule," he said. "You could walk in thinking you have a plan of the day, but every day is different ... I'm glad that the school provides a safe environment for the kids."

The issues

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While his job duties have changed in the past 21 years, Sullivan said the problems the students face haven't changed.

"Most (issues) are the same," he said. "It's about relationships. ... It used to be lipstick on the mirror, now it's Facebook and texting. Some kids are irresponsible with social media."

Sullivan said he or Angela Baker, the school's other guidance counselor, deals with at least one student a week facing one of those social media situations.

"The real challenge is to get kids to use it responsibly," he said. "The issues are the same, it's just that the scope of the drama is larger."

When Sullivan explained his career change to his friends, he said that many called kids out of control.

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"That's really not the case," he said. "There are a lot of great kids. There are more things coming at kids now. ... I love the creativity in kids."

Sullivan said he often can't help kids as much as he'd like.

"A student may be crying out, but he needs more than the school can provide (for him)," Sullivan said. "If the parents don't step up, it's frustrating. It's not because of regulations that the kids don't get help sometimes."

Sullivan said many of the reporting regulations are there to protect the kids and the school.

Coaching

Sullivan is leaving the counseling office, but he'll still be at Big Foot with the golf team.

"I've been playing since I was a little kid," he said. "I was the assistant coach until 2006, now I'm coaching varsity. I wanted to continue that."

Sullivan said he sees a whole different side to the students as a coach.

"You get to know them in a very different way," he said. "It's a special relationship you have with the kids you've coached." As part of his retirement, he plans to add more golfing to his days.

"While I've always enjoyed my job, there are some days I wished I was outside, though I never wanted to miss work," he said.

Now he's looking for his next challenge.

"My antenna is up," he said. "I know there is stuff out there for me. I'm leaving when I still feel good about what I do. You like to think you're making an impact."

Sullivan said he often searches the news for names of his former students. "I just trust they're out there doing good things," he said. "The kids eventually get it. The majority of them figure it out eventually."

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