Sitting on the Buddy Bench

Counselor Lori Regalado sits on the Buddy Bench at Highland Grove Elementary School in Highland.

To be an informed advocate and supporter, the person who people rely on for comfort in times of trouble for guidance or just to lend an ear, requires empathy, communication skills and problem-solving skills.

Redlands native Lori Regalado, the only elementary counselor at Highland Grove Elementary School in Highland, has mastered those traits, in addition to self-awareness, rapport-building skills, flexibility and self-awareness.

“I’m very lucky to work at a school with an amazing administrator who is supportive of all students and staff.  I also work with staff that is extremely dedicated to the students here at Highland Grove.

Regalado, whose family has been in Redlands for almost 100 years, had several career options to pursue after graduating from Redlands High School but opted to follow her heart as a  school counselor.

Regalado obtained her master’s in school counseling with a pupil personnel services credential at the University of Redlands. Prior to that, she obtained a certificate in early childhood education from Crafton Hills College.

“I always wanted to be around kids and support them in any way I could. I’m doing what I love,” said Regalado.

She began her career with Redlands Unified School District at Bryn Mawr Elementary working in an intervention program for primary students. Today, she greets students as they arrive at school, visits classrooms to develop a connection with students and provides group sessions or individual assistance to students.

“I love greeting them when they arrive,” she said. “I love seeing their smiling faces. During the first month, I’m out all over the campus and classrooms. It is important to build relationships with all students.  

“Being a consistent presence in their day helps to build trust and familiarity. This connection is essential when they need emotional support.”

In addition to providing emotional support, Regalado also helps kids build social skills, and character, and motivates them to do well in school and to never miss class. Regalado acts in a way as a second mother to more than 500 kids.  

“I am also here to help provide resources for our Highland Grove families,” she said.

Regalado, who by personal choice has no children herself, wants to help kids avoid the pain and trauma she once felt with the passing of her dad of lymphoma while she was a sophomore in high school.

“This loss and the trauma I went through in dealing with this loss as well as the educators that came to my rescue is what lead me to go into the counseling

program at the U of R,” said Regalado. “I am beyond grateful that I get to work in and give back to the community that helped me during that time. Working as a counselor in Redlands was always my career goal.”

Regalado adjudicates her role as a mother figure to her family, composed of strong Mexican American women, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and sisters, all who have been “examples of strength, resilience and determination.”

“The one I admire most happens to be the one who raised me. She went through one of the most difficult losses a person could go through, but she always put my siblings and me first. The foundation of unconditional love and support both my parents began laying when they started our family, my mom continued without interruption when we lost my dad. We became her priority and we have her to be thankful for, for always supporting us and being there for us whenever we needed her. I would not be where I am without the love and continued encouragement from my mom.”

Regalado has also worked as a child development paraprofessional aide at Victoria Elementary School in the Early Childhood Education Program and at Mentone Elementary, where she became a child development program lead.

Regalado is a proud Mexican American and wants to instill such pride and passion to the community regardless of what culture people come from. She wants people to be proud not only during the Hispanic Heritage Month but also all year round.

“I want my community of Redlands to always reflect on what makes us great is the diversity that exists throughout our city. We all have amazing traditions that can be celebrated,” she said.