Counselor Julie Ross to leave OPHS

Ross to go into private therapy practice


Shoshana Medved / Talon

Counselors Julie Ross and Janet Svoboda go on the computer outside the administration building.

When Julie Ross first worked at Oak Park High School in 1995, there were about 750 students and just one other counselor besides her. She left the following year after the birth of her first child, but when she returned in 2008, she was stunned. 

“Oh, it changed a lot,” Ross said. “A lot of the teachers were still here, so when I came back years later I saw them, so it was pretty cool…[but] there were now four counselors and twice the amount of students.” 

Ross is leaving at the end of the 2020-2021 school year to go into private practice for therapy. She is eager to pursue her dream career and help clients thrive both emotionally and socially. 

“I’ve always wanted to do it, because truly my favorite part of this job is talking to students,” Ross said. “I picked up a couple clients during COVID and I loved it.”

As a single mom with young kids, Ross was unable to receive a therapy license. Just recently, she completed the required schooling to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. During the pandemic, she realized that she wanted to enter the field as soon as possible.

“COVID helped me realize that, ‘Wait a minute, I can do this now,’’’ Ross said. “It’s a huge leap of faith, but I was like, ‘Why wait?’”   

Throughout her career at OPHS, Ross served as a counselor for freshman to seniors and a GATE High School Representative. Alongside freshman counselor Janet Svoboda, she taught Mind Matters Honors and ran the Advanced Peer Counseling program. 

“It’s been such a joy collaborating with her in Advanced Peer Counseling,” Svoboda said.  “Whether it’s teaching the class, going on field trips, or planning our annual retreat, we always had such a blast working together.  We’re attached at the hip in a lot of ways!

Ross and Svoboda have worked together for fourteen years, first as counselors at Agoura High School and then at OPHS. 

“We’re a really good team and really good friends,” Svoboda said. “I appreciate her fun, easy going nature and amazing sense of humor.  I am so happy for her as she pursues her private practice as a therapist but it’s certainly a loss for me, personally, as well as for her students.  I will miss her greatly.”

Alumnus and former Advanced Peer Counseling leader Sam Barney-Gibbs believes Ross is a major reason he is where he is today. 

“I [am] currently in an honors program at Lehigh University now,” Barney-Gibbs wrote to the Talon. “With helping me through a panic attack to setting me up for a happy and healthy life, Ms. Ross has been much more than a counselor.”  

Ross was Barney-Gibbs’s counselor from sophomore to senior year. In Advanced Peer Counseling, the two worked together closely. 

“It was really helpful to have someone on campus that not only helped me with my academic and personal well-being but also in a semi-professional setting,” Barney-Gibbs wrote. “I was always learning more about myself or how to treat others with her … she has this ability to truly balance a certain seriousness with a light-heartedness that I feel makes for a really comfortable environment with those around her.” 

Svoboda believes that Ross is someone who is always there for her students. 

“Julie Ross is a warm and caring counselor, who puts her students first,” Svoboda said.  “I highly respect her.”

Ross hopes to help all ages in her practice, with her years of experience at OPHS giving her special insight into working with teens and parents. Additionally, she wants to work with the transgender community and families in crisis. 

“That’s one thing about counseling: I think I find good in most people I run into, but especially young people,” Ross said. “They’re a fresh slate and they’re open to learning, which is why I love working with them … I find a lot of hope in young people.”