Sitting in the crowded yet organized office at Chase Street Elementary School, the only noises heard over the bustling of children outside was typing and talking. The veteran multi-tasker in front of me was quick to delve into an account of her 16-year career, all while continuing with her busy day. Although her official title reads professional school counselor, Cynthia D. Ballard is a woman who wears many different hats, which change on an hourly basis.
The 490 students currently attending Chase Street, an Athens Clarke Country District elementary school, are all lucky to work with such an accredited woman. With a bachelor’s degree in child psychology, a master’s degree in counselor education, and an education specialist’s degree in professional school counseling, Ballard turned her childhood dream to help kids into a reality.
Some services Ballard provides the school includes: individual and small group counseling, classroom guided lessons, and consultations with faculty, administration, social workers and family. She also serves as the school’s contact for the Athens Clarke County Mentor Program, guiding student mentors and working to match them with students.
“My biggest daily challenge is time management,” said Ballard “but I love what I do and have learned how to handle it all over the years”.
Ballard’s passion and knowledge pushed her past her traditional titles, inspiring her to design and implement Chase Street’s own internal mentoring program: Froggy Friends.
Ballard said, “Mentoring is an area that I believe everyone can benefit from in their lifetime.”
In her first year on the job, Ballard was tasked with acting as the Athens Clarke Country mentoring program liaison. This nonprofit agency, which began in 1991, benefits students by providing them with caring and supportive adult mentors.
Although the program has over 584 mentors throughout Athens, 48 of which are assigned to Chase Street, a number of students are waitlisted each year. Many will wait months, or even years, to be matched with a mentor, a problem Ballard sought to solve.
Her altruistic spirit drove Ballard to propose her own mentoring program to the school’s staff, and she considers its success one of her greatest accomplishments. Chase Street’s Froggy Friends program allows students to be matched with the school’s faculty or administration members, excluding the principal, assistant principal, and Ballard herself. “We are everyone’s Froggy Friend,” Ballard explained.
Over a period of sixteen years, the program has repeatedly evaluated and tweaked, ensuring Ballard’s vision is executed perfectly. The secretaries, teachers, custodial staff and other members of the school faculty were quick to get on board with the idea.
“Working with Mrs. Ballard has been such an incredible experience,” said Catherine Satcher, a Froggy Friend, “Her passion for helping kids and the importance she places on mentoring is apparent through her hard work, innovative ideas, and dedication to the children and families of Chase Street. The school wouldn’t be the same without her.”
Ballard’s contributions to the Chase Street community are invaluable to faculty and the school’s families alike. “I really like spending time with Mrs. Ballard,” said student, Jalen Ambrose, “All the students can go to her for help and can ask her anything. She loves to watch out for all of us.”