Community Spotlight: Asil Al-Shammari



Community Spotlight: Asil Al-Shammari, University Careers Counsellor and Designated Safeguarding Lead

When many prospective parents and visitors tour Halcyon, they often remark on the calmness of our small, nurturing classrooms. Of course, this is credit to our studious staff and student body, but it also speaks to our counsellors and wellbeing team, who underpin the culture here at Halcyon.

A central figure to Halcyon culture is our University and Careers Counselling Director, and Designated Safeguarding Lead, Asil Al-Shammari, who works closely with students to ensure they have a foundation of wellbeing to support their academic success.

Asil aptly defines her role: “Fundamentally, it’s to empower students into their own academic choices, by supporting their wellbeing alongside my team.”

The role of University and Careers Counselling Director touches all corners of the school, working closely with coordinators and teachers to alleviate student anxiety and to ensure our wellbeing programme is upheld.

“If we help students understand themselves, then they will know what they are capable of doing. I want to help them recognise parts of themselves they don’t feel are significant.”

For many schools, careers counselling remains an add on, but for Halcyon, it’s at the heart of our delivery of the International Baccalaureate. Asil helps ease the transition into university, ensuring students have the confidence to build their own career path.

“I wish I had someone in my position when I was at school,” she jokes. “We recognise that career decisions are a lifelong process, which starts here at school. The biggest part is helping students make the right choices to be successful beyond Halcyon, to provide them with the tools to be fully autonomous about their life decisions.”

The tools for success

As research suggests, those who have good experiences at their career-services offices are more likely to believe they were prepared for life post-graduation. And although many schools offer generalised careers advice, Asil understands the complexity of each student profile, collecting qualitative data based on a blend of restorative practices and one-to-one cognitive coaching sessions, to personalise student career development.

“One of the most powerful traits at Halcyon is student agency. The student is at the centre of every conversation. As much as data matters to us, we are human driven. The student is never lost in the narrative. Every individual here is an individual.”

But, our careers-counselling programme goes further than university offers and the exit process, with many alumni students remaining closely connected with our school, years after the tossing of their graduation hat.

Navigating the road to Careers Counselling

Asil has her own diverse career path. In 2007, she stepped into education, teaching ICT in the state sector. She admits it was difficult in the early days of teaching, remembering: “I knew I wanted to work with kids, but didn’t know what subject to teach.”

In search of different educational opportunities, Asil was quick to venture beyond the classroom, introducing and running Duke of Edinburgh trips, realising the power of exploratory learning.

These early career endeavours included moving and teaching in Morocco, leading and delivering a variety of outreach programmes: clean-ups in the local area; food and clothing drives for remote villages; arts and crafts programmes for students in disability centres; and working in the outskirts of Marrakesh, to provide 11-to-18 year old girls access to education where they would not receive it.

“All of these experiences reinforced a need to support students into understanding the wider world, through the strengths of their own character.”

Asil then picked up college counselling electives, which manifested into a part-time role before embracing careers counselling as a full time career. She moved back to the UK, initially working for two years at fellow international school ACS Hillingdon, before shifting to Halcyon.  

The move to counselling was a yearning to nurture long term student success and wellbeing. Asil says, “Internally, to see a student go through the Diploma programme, who may be doubting their abilities, then to support them when they are struggling and watch their self-discovery is a really rewarding part of the job.”

“These students, they are like phoenixes rising in the ashes. It’s heartwarming to see them at Graduation after the long road  through the diploma programme.”

Asil draws from her wide range of personal experiences, including teaching and working with communities across the world, to inform her philosophy as a Careers Counselling Director.

“I try to tell students that you don’t need to have all the right answers, but to follow your passion. The most important thing is being your truest self. Everyone is trying to fit into a mould, but they are missing the most important aspect, which is their passion. When I started recognising that in Morocco, I found so many opportunities for growth.”

Although Asil has found her calling in the careers office, she continues to move beyond the classroom, with plans to become a Special Constable for the London Metropolitan Police. 

And when she’s not working or volunteering in the community? Asil says: “I’m looking after my new best friend, my one year old daughter, Jiji.”