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Garner counselor proves you can do it all

Alicia Rich as a drummer, officer and boxer Dr. Alicia Rich, originally from Spain, is the new counselor at Garner Middle School. She brings a “rich” background of experiences, skills and passions that fuel the way she serves her students.

When you walk into her office, it’s hanging all over her walls.

“The kids like to see you are a person and not just an office,” said Rich. “I put up pictures of myself, my family, art and diplomas so they can see. They see this. They see that. They ask questions. ‘Wow. Is that you up there?’ And I tell them yeah. You can do it too.”

On one wall in her office are photos of a young girl in boxing gloves. That’s her.

She also has several photos of her playing guitar and drums in a rock band.

She loves drawing and art, so flower walls and crafts are also part of her décor.

And on another wall, hang multiple college diplomas. She has seven degrees in total, including three associate’s degrees, a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education.

Alicia Rich in front of her degreesIt all started when she was a young student in Spain and discovered a love for martial arts and kickboxing. At one point, she competed against men because there weren’t any women in the sport at the time.

After enrolling in college, she began preparing for a career in law enforcement. She came to the United States and worked for years as a police officer, even working a short stint as a bounty hunter.

“I never thought I would be an educator. I always loved law enforcement. But while I was doing that, I saw so many kids in trouble. I would talk to them and find out about their background. A lot of them just didn’t know any other way of life. But I realized I could develop a real rapport with them.”

That’s when she knew her true calling was to be a counselor.  

This is her 24th year in education and one of the biggest takeaways from all of her life experiences is that personal connections make all the difference.  

Even though it’s only been a few weeks since the school year started, she is already starting to form those relationships.

“I saw this little girl at lunch and she was always sitting by herself and drawing. Well, I love to draw and do all kinds of art. So one day I bought her some drawing pencils. She was so happy and asked ‘Is this for me? Really?’ She couldn’t believe someone would do something like that for her. I sat down and drew some things with her. And told her that she should consider illustrating because of how much she loves doing it.”  

Because she can't always know what is happening with her students when they are not in school, she wants to connect with students who otherwise may not have someone in their corner. It could be helping those kids who are on the border of getting into real trouble, like she saw when she was a police officer. Or it could be just inspiring a student to follow a passion of their own.

So whether it’s finding out what students like so she can relate to them, saying hello in the hallways every single day or creating programs that allow students to express themselves creatively, she hopes to make a difference and inspire.

“Checking in on kids every day is so important because they see that someone cares. I want to help my kids. I want them to know that I care. And if I can make a difference for even just a few of them, then that’s what I am going to do.”

Posted by Kristina Perez
Sept 20, 2022