By Jana Carver

Chris Chafin, director of Counseling and Disability Access Services at GTCC. (Jana Carver/GTCC)

Chris Chafin, director of Counseling and Disability Access Services at GTCC. (Jana Carver/GTCC)

As final exams and the end of the semester draw near, stress tends to become the norm among students.  

“With our students, the stress often starts outside of the classroom,” said Chris Chafin, director of Counseling and Disability Access Services at Guilford Technical Community College. “A number of our students are trying to balance working full-time or part-time jobs and raising families, while being a student.”

That is why the counselors at GTCC’s Counseling Center are dedicated to helping students manage the stress that comes with all of their different responsibilities.

“We offer short-term counseling to students based on what they are dealing with,” he said. “We try to identify the causes of stress and help students find ways to overcome anxiety.”

One way they help students mitigate stress is by helping them see themselves differently.

“When a student is overwhelmed because they don’t believe they can do something, we help them reframe those negative thoughts,” Chafin explained.

The Counseling Center is located on GTCC’s main campus on the ground floor of Davis Hall. Additional counselors are also available to meet with students on the college’s High Point, Cameron and Greensboro campuses. The Counseling Center helps students struggling with everything from generalized stress to anxiety and depression. But for someone who has never tried counseling, its benefits might be difficult to see, Chafin said.  

“There’s a stigma around counseling … the belief of ‘I should be able to handle whatever I encounter on my own,” Chafin said.

That was just one of the beliefs April Thompson was struggling with when she first came to GTCC in 1999. As a teen mom, Thompson didn’t know how to get from where she was to where she wanted to be.

“I didn’t know how to turn my life around … but I wanted better,” she said. “I was definitely apprehensive to go to the Counseling Center. I struggled, even out in the parking lot.  It was a struggle to go in there.”

Counseling Center staff from left to right: Toni Bass, Helen Cain and Robin Bellotto.

Counseling Center staff from left to right: Toni Bass, Helen Cain and Robin Bellotto.

The fear came from not knowing what to expect.

“I was really just looking for a way out of the world that was saying I was nothing. I needed an outlet. I got that there,” she said.

Through the Counseling Center, Thompson learned about support groups and resources such as the Single Parent Support Group, Edna’s kids, and Triumph Group (a support group for domestic violence victims), where she could connect with people who found themselves in similar situations.

These resources helped me to get unstuck,” she said.

Perhaps the most valuable thing the Counseling Center gave her was the ability to realize that despite life’s obstacles she could still be a teen mom and go to school because she had access to support services at GTCC and, most importantly, determination to thrive. She graduated from GTCC and went on to receive her bachelor’s. Today, she’s back at GTCC taking courses to prepare for graduate school. 

“I learned that you don’t have to fall victim to the system,” she said.

She encourages people to take the same step she did and allow others to help.

“The Counseling Center is more than just a Counseling Center; it’s really a one-stop place where you can go get your life back on track,” Thompson said. “They aren’t there to judge you.”

To help students navigate the challenges that arise as the semester winds down, Chafin offers the following tips.

Five Coping Tips for Stress

  1. Time management. According to Chafin, time management is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for students; it’s also one of the easiest things to fix. Chafin recommends taking a moment to examine how you spend your time, compare it to your to-do list, and prioritize accordingly.
  2. Rest. Chafin says rest is key because stress increases when the body is tired. By allowing yourself to get a good night’s rest, you’re helping ensure that you are in a frame of mind that is ready for the day ahead—not to mention, you’re saving yourself the extra stress that comes with struggling to stay awake and focused.  
  3. Communication. If you have to be absent for a class, or aren’t clear on the requirements of an assignment, Chafin recommends talking to your teacher. The more clarity between you and your instructors, the better.
  4. Set aside time for fun. Chafin suggests finding something you enjoy to help take your mind off whatever is bogging you down. The idea here is to give yourself permission to step away from whatever you feel “stuck” on and take a break.
  5. Seek help. And, finally, if you feel like you are struggling in a particular area in your life and need someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to visit the Counseling Center; they are there to help.         

For more information about counseling opportunities, visit: or contact one of the following Counseling Center representatives:

Jamestown Campus: Chris Chafin at 336-334-4822, ext. 50323 or

High Point and Cameron Campus: Daniel Grigg at 336-334-4822, ext. 50335 or

Greensboro Campus: Jadarius Jackson at 336-334-4822, ext. 53021 or