BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Gateway guidance counselor Jake Tapley believes that middle school can be one of the most exciting and one of the most challenging times for a young student. “This is the age when the kids start to really focus on what others think about them, who their friends are and their own identity,” he said. Tapley is new to the district this year, and while he is getting to know his fellow staff members, he is also getting to know all of the students – who range in age from 11 to 14. “What has stood out so far is how kind and welcoming everyone has been. I really feel like I stepped right in and hit the ground running.” Tapley graduated from Lake High School and attended The Ohio State University, where he received a bachelor of arts in criminology. He also received his master of education in school counseling from Bowling Green State University. Prior to coming to Maumee, Tapley served as a guidance counselor at Bowling Green Middle School. He also held positions in Wood County Juvenile Court as a juvenile probation officer, youth services and school suspension coordinator and youth advisor supervisor. His work in the juvenile justice system focused more on discipline and procedure as opposed to his work as a guidance counselor, where he assists in resolving issues before they became major problems. “I wanted to do whatever I could to help kids before they get to that point where they are in serious trouble,” he said. At Gateway, he will conduct one-on-one and small-group counseling, provide classroom instruction on a variety of topics and help students with college and career lessons through self-exploration initiatives. He will also provide mental health awareness information. “Personally, I really enjoy working with kids – I really like that right now they are on the cusp of figuring out who they are and they are right in the middle of being kids, but transitioning into young adults,” he said. In addition to serving as a guidance counselor, Tapley also serves as the Maumee High School boys varsity golf coach. He and his wife Sarah live in Waterville, where they have a daughter and a son who is due in November.