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Guiding with Compassion

Selby Bourne


The Unsung Hero is designated by Superintendent of Schools Lori S. Duerr to shine a well-deserved spotlight on individuals in the Falmouth Public Schools who make invaluable contributions to the district. 

Selby Bourne: Guiding with Compassion 

By Sarah E. Murphy 

Lawrence School Adjustment/Guidance Counselor Selby Bourne knows firsthand that sometimes the most important thing you can do for someone is offer an empathetic ear. 

For her, that person was her mother’s sister, a psychotherapist who lived in California and worked with at-risk youth. Despite their geographical distance, she helped Selby navigate the challenging years of adolescence through cross-country phone calls. Her aunt’s profession, and her approach, both inspired Selby’s career path. 

“When I was a pre-teen, I used to love hearing about what she did for work, and how she helped people. She was always finding the best in humans. Instead of focusing on the choices they made, she saw them for who they were as a whole, and how they were impacted by their environment,” Selby said. 

“She exuded warmth and acceptance. She was non-judgmental, and she always saw the positive.”

As a student at Falmouth High School, Selby utilized the resources of the guidance department, in particular, meeting with now retired FHS Adjustment Counselor Greg Gilbert. The experience not only helped her emotionally, but it also contributed to her career choice, offering a tangible example of how she could combine her academic interests and personal passions. 

“When I went into social work, I knew that ultimately, I wanted to be in a school setting. I used to joke with Mr. Gilbert that one day I’d come back and take his job,” she said. 

Selby has since become an integral member of the Guidance Department at Lawrence. Now in her eighth year at the school, she loops with the students, moving up with them from seventh to eighth grade, enabling her to establish strong relationships while also experiencing their respective milestones. In her dual role as an Adjustment/Guidance Counselor, she works with a full spectrum of students in the General Education initiative, grappling with issues ranging from depression and anxiety, to grief and trauma resulting from life events, such as the death of a parent, loved one, or pet, and the impact of divorce and addiction, to the everyday stress that accompanies adolescence. 

“Sometimes it’s kiddos dealing with a major issue - mourning the loss of what once was. Or sometimes it’s high-achieving students who missed a few days of school, and suddenly they’re completely overwhelmed trying to catch up,” Selby said. 

“Whatever the reason, it’s about normalizing their feelings, helping them understand that talking about it is helpful, and then coming up with a plan using healthy coping strategies,” she said.

Prior to joining the staff at Lawrence, Selby worked as a clinician in environments such as group homes and a community-based acute treatment center, experiences which contribute to the holistic approach she uses with every student. 

“That work makes me better in the role I’m in now,” she said. 

Selby also helps young people address and manage the feelings of loneliness and isolation that ensued during Covid, which for many resulted in an increased use of social media, potentially exposing them to unhealthy messages and situations, such as sexting, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders. 

“Everything is at their fingertips now, and they’re getting those feelings of validation, acceptance, and self-esteem from likes and comments, but what they’re seeing is all external, it’s not real. It presents a fake sense of happiness,” she said. 

“They’re also flooded with apps, filters, and hyper-sexualized images - false images that are unrealistic to live up to in real life, which can contribute to depression and social anxiety.”

Selby’s main priority is to be a constant, reliable presence. And although her aunt has since passed away, she continues to be a mentor and an inspiration, both personally and professionally.

“My job is to make students feel valued and heard,” Selby said. “For me, it’s about establishing that human connection.” 

Alan Kazarian, Director of Guidance for Grade 5-12, also credited the ease with which she makes students feel safe. 

“Selby’s very personable and energetic, and she has a lot of enthusiasm. Students naturally gravitate to her because they feel welcomed,” he said. 

“She’s an acute listener, and she speaks the truth. She gives the students a chance to process what they’re discussing, and a positive way to help themselves. She’s very proactive.” 

He highlighted Selby’s ability not only to advocate but to empower.  

“We have a number of different programs and ways of helping students overcome barriers and obstacles in their learning, and Selby’s very good at describing the issue and communicating best practices, which involves working with administrators, families, and teachers,” Mr. Kazarian said. 

“That takes a collaborative approach, and Selby’s excellent with that. She really knows her students, and she’s very well-respected.” 

Some of Selby’s students illustrated his point. Sid Watson, Hadley Viera, and Charlie Gumbleton offered their collective input.

“She’s very caring. She makes kids very comfortable, and she’s always willing to help and give students the help they need,” they said. 

Dylan Hemsworth appreciates Selby’s assistance and empathy. 

“She’s nice, and she helps me when I’m going through things,” he said. 

Tanaja Silvera considers Selby someone she can trust. 

“I know she loves me very much, and she is a respectful, caring, and compassionate young woman,” she said. 

Lawrence School Principal Thomas Bushy underscored Selby’s sensitivity and skill.

“With every student in need of guidance, Selby continually strikes the perfect balance between encouragement and compassion. She talks about ‘meeting them where they are at’ but it’s much more than that - it’s leaning into the issues they are dealing with, validating their concerns, and providing them with the tools they need to have a better class, day or overall experience,” he said. 

“Selby never wavers from what she believes in, and whether it’s stated or not, students know she is genuine - particularly as it pertains to issues of equity, inclusivity, and ensuring that all feel welcome at Lawrence.” 

Mr. Bushy called attention to her team-oriented process. 

“One of Selby’s greatest attributes is the ability to see the counseling scenarios through a number of lenses. When she is working to support a student navigating hardships in their lives, she never loses sight of the fact her colleagues are also impacted by professional and personal challenges of their own. Colleagues appreciate her caring nature, and know that her efforts come from a place of mutual respect, which they return enthusiastically,” he said. 

“Ultimately, Lawrence School is better because of the talent and heart that Selby brings to the job on a daily basis.”

Superintendent of Schools Lori S. Duerr agreed. 

“Junior high is a particularly challenging time, as young people are becoming adults and finding their way in the world. Additionally, the pandemic has created new challenges over the past few years. Therefore, it’s imperative that our students know they have a trusted adult at school with whom they can always share their innermost thoughts, hopes, and fears,” Dr. Duerr said. 

“Selby is a pivotal figure in their lives, and an invaluable member of our district.” 

Sarah E. Murphy