A New, Welcoming Smile

Ms. Jessica is FSSA’s new RAPP counselor.

There’s always a line out the door, in the senior lounge, with sobbing students wanting to see her, hoping to get an appointment. Opening the door there is a new welcoming face with a room covered in fairy lights and pictures of her students. She is new to the school but seems like she’s been here all along with students who rave about her and bring in others to meet her. She’ll always make sure she has your birthday written down somewhere for a little party, giving her students more and more reasons to love and trust her. She reaches for her pink planner trying to match your free periods with hers so she can give you her undivided attention with advice that will solve all of your problems.

Ms. Jessica Bovo, the new Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, RAPP, counselor at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), inspires students to come meet her and speak about their feelings. Although she can’t disclose specific things she went through growing up, Ms. Jessica can definitely say her personal life growing up is one of the main contributors of why she decided to become a social worker. Experiencing hardships and adversity, Ms. Jessica believes that she can connect with others on that level. Ms. Jessica’s childhood really made her want to help people because she remembers what it was like to go through.

Being someone who has personally been there has shaped Ms. Jessica’s character and the lenses she uses to view the world. Filled with empathy for other people, Ms. Jessica doesn’t just listen to other people’s stories she actually feels them.  

Growing up believing that she would become a high school English teacher, Ms. Jessica double majored in education and English during undergrad school. When Ms. Jessica started student teaching, she realized that she really wanted to help students but they way she wanted to help them extended outside just teaching.  Even though Ms. Jessica can truly say she loves teaching, she just didn’t feel that she would be using herself and her experiences in the past in the best way that she could.

“My role is to be supportive, and provide an environment where they can feel supported,” said Ms. Jessica.

Right after Ms. Jessica received her Bachelor’s degree in psychology, she got her first job in a social work setting. She started working in an after school program as a counselor. Ms. Jessica would do individual counseling and group counseling. They would discuss abusive relationships, healthy dating, time management, how to deal with stress, effective communication skills, and just a bunch of other things.   

At the after school program, there was dancing, singing, and all form of arts. Ms. Jessica would utilize the form of art each student enjoyed and incorporate that into the counseling. Then, Ms. Jessica started working as a RAAP counselor at Murry Bergtraum High School where she did created another safe space like everywhere she has worked. After working at the high school, Ms. Jessica took on a different job but this one at Rikers Island.   

She would engage in community outrage to clients that were recently released from jail. Ms. Jessica would link them with programs for jobs, counseling, and even housing. Creating group sessions in the male jail and taking about different topics weekly, was Miss Jessica’s job. But now, Ms. Jessica works at FSSA to help the students.

“The tender truth about what it means to be a human and all the resiliency that comes with it,” states Ms. Jessica.

Ms. Jessica contributes to the FSSA community as a support system for all students in the school standing with guidance counselors and teachers. She is one of the people on the team of staff that has a focus on healthy relationships which she says pushes forward the movement of supporting it. Being at FSSA her students have taught her resilience, that one can undergo so much stress and hardship and yet have the courage to keep going. It has challenged her own ideas and to look at things in a different light, to open up and be with you in the process.   

Working at FSSA, is different than her previous job. She states that Frank Sinatra has many resources, not like the other schools she has worked in.

“They can be themselves and go to those raw emotions that are sometimes too painful or hard to talk about and that I can sit there and listen and make them feel heard and validated and normalize their experience,” Ms. Jessica said.

Ms. Jessica does not only enjoy her job, she loves it. She enjoys her job because it challenges her in ways she never expected, it touches her heart, and she has created so many relationships that would have never been formed if she wasn’t a social work.  

Ms. Jessica also loves that she can work in diverse settings. She has seen tremendous growth and tremendous pain, but she loves helping people find their voice. Ms. Jessica enjoys serving those who need her help and she loves giving back to others. She loves watching her students grow and being a part of that process.

— by Julia Leone ’19 and Francesca Griffin ’19