When Elizabeth Bates was 16 years old, she started spending a lot of time at Priory. She had met a boy she liked named Brandon ('04), who was tackling his Priory community service commitment at an organization where her mother worked. She was there to help out, never dreaming that she would meet her future husband. The two started dating, and she found herself hanging out at Priory events. Fourteen years later, she’s back at Priory as our new School Counselor and she’s excited to be here.
Elizabeth was born and raised, for the most part, in St. Louis. She had a brief stint in South Carolina. She was a junior at Lafayette when she met Brandon. The pair ended up attending Purdue after graduation, and Elizabeth laughs that she applied and was accepted first, while Brandon still denies that her matriculation there was the draw for him. Elizabeth worked towards her Bachelor of Arts while Brandon studied civil engineering. The pair graduated, and three weeks later were married by Father Gregory.
Brandon went to work on roads and bridges, while Elizabeth served as a foster care case manager. “It was one of the hardest things,” she said, “but really, it prepared me so much for the world of counseling. There is nothing I can see or hear that will shock me now, because I’ve already seen the worst of the worst.” She admits that perhaps she was a bit naïve coming out of college, and that work in the foster care system “puts you in the real world really fast.” It’s hard to work in the foster care system for a long time, because it’s stressful and the heartbreaking situations involving children stay with case managers even after their work day ends. “It was difficult to see,” she said, “and I had a hard time leaving it at work.” She says that now that she’s a mother, she doubts she could handle the job as well as she once did. “I was able to separate a little bit, while now I don’t think I could.” After three and a half years, Elizabeth was ready for a change. She began her masters program and moved into clinical counseling work.
While finishing her Masters of Counseling degree from Missouri Baptist University, Elizabeth entered the world of substance abuse prevention programming for schools, serving as a School Teams Coordinator and meeting with difficult students who were considered at-risk.
A new opportunity came along at Great Circle, as coordinator for the self-injury program. During her time at Great Circle, she realized that she wanted to return to the school environment. She went back to school again to earn her school counseling certificate, working with the Parkway School District’s before- and after-school program to complete her internship hours during the day.
She discovered that Priory was looking for a school counselor online, and sent in her resume. When she was eventually contacted about the position, she had to admit to the caller that she was “now pregnant — like, really pregnant.” She was convinced no one would hire a woman who was eight months pregnant, and had made plans to stay home for a year once the baby was born. Thankfully, Priory interviewed her, and made her a family-friendly offer. Elizabeth is on-campus from 7:30 until about 12:30 each day Monday through Thursday, with flexibility to extend or move her hours as needed. The schedule doubles the counselor time the school was able to offer previously, and Elizabeth gets to spend time with baby Kennedy who made her entrance to the world on August 16.
Kennedy has turned Elizabeth and Brandon’s world “upside down, for the better!” Avid travelers, they’ve placed their wanderings on hold while they adjust to being new parents. They visited Italy for two weeks last March, as their “last hurrah” before the baby arrived. They’ve also been to Kona (The Big Island), Hawaii several times, as well as Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Stateside, they’ve been to several states including New York and California, and have returned to Indiana. Elizabeth says their next big trip will probably be back to Europe; she’s angling for Greece while he would like to visit Ireland. Brandon’s a huge college football fan, and has adopted the Mizzou Tigers as his “second team.” His Mizzou alumni friends like to attend games, and they’ve been known to follow the Tigers on the road, most recently to New Orleans for the LSU game. “Purdue isn’t very good at football,” Elizabeth admits, “so it’s nice to follow Mizzou and have a win every once in awhile.” She also admits that she’s learned to like football…a bit. “Saturdays are filled with college football in our house,” she said, “although really some kind of sport is always on in our home.”
Elizabeth’s return to Priory has been a bundle of emotions. She never thought at 16 that she would end up working at this particular school where she had spent so much time. The Priory community has embraced her, and she noted that it “feels like a family even though I’ve only been here a short time. Everyone knows Brandon, so people will stop in and ask how he’s doing, and everyone asks how Kennedy is doing.” She’s enjoying getting to know the students, too, as the school was quiet and nearly empty when she began over the summer.
She’s working to be a source of support for Priory students, in addition to perhaps offering a different viewpoint. She points out that Priory’s previous counselors have all been male, and she surmises it might be interesting for the students to hear a feminine view on heavier topics. She is working on developing spring seminars focused on mental health awareness, an important topic that began with this trimester’s Starting the Conversation program for parents. “That event was really good, and opened the door for parents. I would love to bring that conversation and awareness that the parents experienced to the student body,” she said.
Please continue to welcome Elizabeth to the Priory family, and feel free to reach out to her at any time. Or maybe stop by and check out some adorable baby pictures that we’re sure she’d be willing to share.