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Spreading Hope at Montgomery High School One Smile at a Time

By Annabelle Wang | January 27, 2022

If you walk into Montgomery High School and see a woman dancing through the halls distributing happiness stickers and looking everyone in the eye with a smile that somehow passes through her mask, there’s a good chance you’ve just met Christine Grossmann.

Christine Grossmann

A certified Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) with an extensive background in psychology and holistic health, Grossmann’s work is completely dedicated to emotional support for students — whereas guidance counselors also engage in academic guidance. She offers a confidential, judgment-free space complete with a sound machine and essential oils for students to talk about sudden changes, such as divorce, family dynamics, the pandemic — any undue stress atypical for high school students.

Much of her counseling focuses on “violations of substance abuse policies,” meaning students have mandatory meetings with her so she can help connect them to resources and early intervention. She also works with students to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are potentially traumatic childhood events that can put them at a higher risk of harm to self or others in the future.

Patience and empowerment are central to her philosophy. She said her job is “not to change students’ views but to empower them.” “You don’t want to be an adult they just met telling them they’re wrong,” Grossmann said. She prefers to “practice the pause. Counseling doesn’t have to be a lot of talking. I want to let students feel heard and get their thoughts out.”

The same is true for Grossmann’s approach to her own life. Growing up with a family affected by substance misuse and mental health issues, she learned firsthand “the importance of advocating for young people in similar situations to make healthy connections within supportive environments.”

In high school, she found adults with whom she could connect and count on for support. This led her to the University of Delaware, with the vision of helping people. Though she started off in nutrition science, Grossmann ended up falling in love with her work as a psychology teaching assistant. From there, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Family and Community Services and her Student Assistance Counselor certification at Kean University.

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With experience as a clinician in co-occurring disorders at Newark Catholic Community Services and a counselor at South Boundbrook Middle School, Manville High School, and Keyport High School, she arrived at Montgomery High School ten years ago with the same goal that had always driven her: to spread hope and help people feel safe enough to talk about uncomfortable subjects. She set to work right away by creating the People Project, a club she still advises that addresses current trends in the student body through an interactive platform.

She also sits on the Intervention and Referral Services team at MHS and the Association of Student Assistance Professionals in NJ, which connects all SACs in Somerset County. Her presence in these groups has enabled her to co-plan mental health events, assemblies, and most recently, a depression screening that students had the option of taking in the first week of December to identify where school professionals can make positive impacts.

Regardless of what her work is, Grossmann strives to destigmatize mental health and connect people. “When we share support for mental health awareness and remind those who are suffering they are not alone, we re-instill HOPE! “If you only carry one thing throughout your entire life, let it be hope.”


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