by Laura Bednar
Since the opening of The Welsh Academy, its students have grown in their emotional capacity and interpersonal skills, and Student Life Counselor Dierre Cody has grown right alongside them.
Cody has a background in social work, and when he saw a job posting for a counselor at the academy, the words “educational equity” stood out to him. “It was something I wanted to be a part of,” Cody says. “The ideology lined up with mine, and I knew it was a good place to be.”
He started at the academy in its inaugural year, teaching Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in a format comparable to therapy. In these sessions, he helped a small group of boys to learn positive decision-making, how to respond to situations appropriately, and other skills they may be lacking. But after the pandemic put everyone through the wringer, it was decided SEL would be its own class for all students.
Cody now teaches an SEL class for the eighth graders that focuses on social, self, and interpersonal awareness. He still works with students in small groups, where he focuses on one area, such as dealing with the loss of a loved one.
He has taken on more responsibility over the years, becoming the Affinity Coordinator. In this role, he ensures each student has a place to go during the portion of the day they learn an activity such as cooking, fishing, or baseball from a Saint Ignatius High School staff member, alumnus, or family member. Cody describes this position as “athletic director light.” (More about Affinity Courses)
It was his athletic ability and love of basketball that led him to create a basketball program for the Welsh Academy students. Cody says the boys have become close friends after coming to a new school without a previously formed peer group. After seeing their budding relationships, he thought, “Why not connect over basketball?”
What began as a recreational activity has become a CYO basketball team that competes against others citywide. Cody recalls feeling proud when two players were not able to play in an away game but traveled there anyway to support their teammates.
“The boys have come so far, growing academically and socially,” Cody says. “They’ve become close as friends, too.”
As a husband and father, Cody has taken some lessons home from his time teaching the boys. “The little conversations matter with a student and their parents,” Cody says, adding that he sees the payoff from building a relationship with the students.
“The boys realize people at the academy care for them, and the staff have welcomed students with open and loving arms,” he says.