July 10, 2019

School Counseling alumna Virginia Atunez founds grief counseling program in Salem-Keizer schools to help students overcome tragedy and find academic success

When Virginia Antunez, School Counseling, first met McKay High School student KJ Kovac during his senior year, she immediately knew he was driven. KJ missed most of his sophomore year of school after his mom died of a heart attack.
  • KPTV image

When Virginia Antunez, School Counseling, first met McKay High School student KJ Kovac during his senior year, she immediately knew he was driven. “He said, ‘I don’t care what I need to do, I’m going to graduate for my parents,’” Antunez recalled.

KJ missed most of his sophomore year of school after his mom died of a heart attack. About a year later, his dad died of a similar condition. “I’m doing this for them,” KJ said before commencement, earning his diploma despite his intense family loss. “It was really hard to focus in school when you lost both parents,” KJ said. A new grief counseling program at the high school helped KJ move forward. His school counselor, Virginia Antunez, helped him catch up academically.

KJ is attending Chemeketa Community College in the fall. He’s interested in maybe pursuing a career in firefighting. In addition to mentoring KJ, Antunez started a GoFundMe account to help pay for KJ’s college expenses. 

Read the full story on the KPTV News.