• Sunday, January 31, 2021 6:34 PM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    Watch this video to Learn more about National School Counseling Week activities, IACAC & ISCA Advocacy activities and Disaffiliation

  • Tuesday, December 22, 2020 10:23 AM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    Check out the nomination here: http://app.lifechangeroftheyear.com/nomination_detail.cfm?NominationID=6319

    Dr. Truax is a true leader at the district, state, and national levels. As a former master counselor for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Dr. Truax helps vet district initiatives, facilitates presentations, and serves as a mentor for school counselors. She has since become the executive director for CPS, leading all work for school counseling in the district. She has led city-wide “RAMP camps” for school counselors who want to learn how to complete the RAMP application. Dr. Truax has earned RAMP three times and most recently earned a RAMP School of Distinction award from the American School Counselor Association.

    At her school, Dr. Truax assisted the school with earning an “exemplary" Safe and Supportive School Badge from the Chicago Public Schools. This means that a comprehensive social-emotional learning plan is in place at her school, including strategic planning, social-emotional core curriculum, a menu of options for small group and individual supports, a behavioral health team, and community partnerships. 

    Dr. Truax advocated for her school, which serves pregnant and parenting teens, to establish a Career and Technical Education course and a Dual Credit Course. She coordinates all school-wide events for parents and students at Simpson Academy and serves as a lead on multiple initiatives throughout the school. 

    At the state and national level, Dr. Truax also uses her collaborative talents. She serves on the board for the Illinois School Counselor Association as the vice-president counselor educator. She regularly earns one of the highest ratings for her presentations at the ISCA state conferences year after year. Dr. Truax has also facilitated presentations for ISCA in the fall on the new 4th edition of the ASCA model. Additionally, she serves as a lead RAMP reviewer for the ASCA and regularly presents on behalf of ASCA at the annual conferences. 

    Dr. Truax also serves as a counselor educator at Roosevelt University. She won the Dr. Toni Tollerud School Counselor Educator of the Year award from ISCA for the amazing work that she has done at Roosevelt University to build and improve their school counseling graduate program.

    Her knowledge and expertise never goes unnoticed in any platform in which she serves. Her passion for her students and the school counseling profession is evident in all that she does, from developing stellar programs in her school and seeing huge improvements, to serving at the state and national level through ISCA and ASCA, to serving as a counselor educator. Dr. Truax is wise and truly cares about the well-being of others.


  • Sunday, December 20, 2020 12:39 PM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    ISCA has been chosen as a grant recipient for the Dr. Toni R. Tollerud  School Counseling Grant in the amount of $1,000. This grant will be used to support ISCA's development of a Race and Equity Credential for school counselors. Counselors will participate in a 3 day training to earn the Credential and to become agents of change in their schools to end systemic racist practices in schools. Click here to see the Race & Equity Steering Committee. 

  • Tuesday, December 15, 2020 8:22 AM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    Have a great colleague that others need to know about! Someone that is innovative, caring, a magnet for student and staff relations in your school ?Nominate them for an ISCA Award! Click here  to access the Nomination Form. 
    Check out our PAST ISCA AWARD WINNERS. Need more information? Click here. 

  • Tuesday, December 08, 2020 9:37 PM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    The ISCA Student Scholarship application is now available. 7 $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to students. Click here to access the application.  Deadline for submission is February 12, 2021. Click here to watch a video from ISCA President-Elect Mr. TaRael Kee about the ISCA Scholarship. 

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2020 1:05 PM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    Conference Review - By ISCA President-Elect TaRael Kee

    Hello everyone, I hope you had a wonderful conference and a Happy Thanksgiving.  The ISCA board truly hoped to have an in person conference this year. We really value and enjoy seeing all of our colleagues face to face but the pandemic made that impossible.  However, there were some very incredible moments this year despite all of our conference sessions being held online.  As a state association,  we really grew closer and developed new ways of assessing and meeting the needs of all of our members. Additionally,  ISCA gained so much positive momentum coming off of our conference and the disaffiliation vote (officially happening on February 3rd) and we hope to continue moving forward by serving school counselors to the best of our ability.

    Awards Ceremony

    The ISCA Awards Ceremony was spectacular and held many heartwarming moments.  Brian Coleman gave a phenomenal keynote speech and a very touching tribute to our Executive Director (and his mentor) Dr. Vince Walsh-Rock. Our awards ceremony made it apparent that so many counselors are working so hard and accomplishing so much despite the challenges that a pandemic brings.  Did you know that in 2020, ASCA awarded nine Illinois schools RAMP designation?  Counselors in our state are incredible and build phenomenal relationships with students. Hundreds of students wrote extraordinary essays about their circumstances and the impact their school counselors had on their lives.  We highlighted counselor-student bonds at our conference by recognizing ISCA’s seven regional scholarship winners

    ISCA truly values recognizing the amazing effort of school counselors throughout the state of Illinois.  During the award ceremony attendees heard personal and very touching speeches about past presidents Leslie Goines and Dr. Matt Liberatorre.  The ceremony continued to progress after those heart warming presentations by honoring the 2020 ISCA Award Winners. Ultimately, the night culminated with Dr. Heidi Truax winning the Illinois School Counselor of the Year Award.  Our awards ceremony was amazing and served as a snapshot of all of the success that Illinois school counselors had throughout the 2019-2020 school year.

    Breakout Sessions

    This year, we had 376 school counselors from all over Illinois register for the ISCA Conference!  Our attendees participated in 1525 professional development sessions! Even more meaningful is that our members felt like the training was impactful and our presenters received excellent reviews!  The topics this year ranged from developing mentorship programs to motivating challenging students. Here is a comprehensive list of all of our breakout sessions. If you are interested in watching additional sessions they are still available until December 31st. All you have to do is log into the conference portal to continue learning!  Also, if you missed the conference but are still interested in our professional development videos it is not too late! All you have to do is click HERE to register and enjoy quality professional development!  The ISCA Board hopes to continue to provide our members with relevant training.  Please help us by completing our brief Needs Assessment.

    Forms response chart. Question title: Mark the response you think best applies. Number of responses: .




  • Wednesday, November 25, 2020 12:40 PM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    IGPA COVID-19 Pandemic Task Force

    The COVID-19 pandemic has upended everyday life in Illinois and across the nation. There is great uncertainty about the depth and duration of the disruption that the pandemic has caused. We know that public servants throughout the state are spending every waking moment responding to the immediate, public health crisis. One way the IGPA can help is by providing them with evidence-based, objective information as they face the difficult choices ahead.

    At the request of U of I System President Tim Killeen, IGPA assembled more than four dozen interdisciplinary faculty experts from all three System universities to assess COVID-19’s effects on the state. Each group is collaborating on a series of economic modeling activities, data analyses and syntheses of impact.

    Members of the task force stand ready to help consult with state and local officials and provide any information they can to assist. A link to the task force roster is on the left side of this page. This page is updated frequently as the task force continues its work.

    For more information, contact: IGPA Director Robin Fretwell Wilson at wils@uillinois.edu

    • POLICY SPOTLIGHT 7: AN UNFOLDING CRISIS IN THE SATISFACTION AND SUPPLY OF TEACHERS IN ILLINOIS

    • This Policy Spotlight examines the impact the pandemic has had on teachers and school administrators in our state. 

      An Unfolding Crisis in the Satisfaction and Supply of Teachers in Illinois

      Download


  • Wednesday, November 18, 2020 9:01 PM | Vince Walsh-Rock (Administrator)

    The ISCA disaffiliation vote from the Illinois Counseling Association (ICA) passed 78% to 22%. On November 12, the ICA Governing Council accepted the voting results and ICA will release the name Illinois School Counselor Association (ISCA). The disaffiliation will take place on February 1st, 2021. This is an exciting time for ISCA and one that will reap many benefits for ISCA members. During the next couple of months, ISCA leadership will revising by-laws, fee structures, and strategic planning. This is a great time to get involved with ISCA! Reach out to any ISCA Board member to get involved.

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2020 6:13 PM | Tarael Kee (Administrator)

    Introduction

    In America, educators have embraced the long standing practice of valuing mainstream traditional western concepts like individualism over collectivism and community-centered planning. However, America is a country filled with a wealth of ethnicities, cultures, subcultures, belief systems and ideas. Many minority cultures in America practice traditions that have long benefited the people in their communities and with whom they share similar backgrounds.   As individuals, we must acknowledge that the solutions which worked on our journey to become school counselors may not work best for or be culturally relevant to all students. We must consistently make efforts to become more aware of blindspots in our professional approaches and value the lived experiences of people from other economic and sociocultural backgrounds. 

    While the cost of postsecondary institutions are becoming increasingly more expensive and student aid largely is not adjusting to the inflating price of college, many minority households in America remain below the poverty line. The fears and barriers to success for these families are real and deserve deep consideration when presented. When counselors inject their own socioeconomic experiences into the future plans of these families while overlooking their lived experiences, they appear dismissive.  Instead, counselors should strive to find practical solutions that benefit the family that they are assisting by listening and becoming more culturally aware. Such cultural awareness will increase counselors ability to present more relevant opportunities.

    Beyond financial barriers, barriers in representation may create anxiety for students. For example, counselors who work in high need districts are often giving first generation families information about career fields in which they do not personally have relationships with successful people or institutions that they have never experienced. These students need more representation in career pathways to envision their own success and a stronger belief that they can succeed at the aforementioned postsecondary institutions.  For these students and their families, their lived experience is one in which school counselors are asking them to have faith in systems that have not historically benefited them or people that look like them. 

    Collectivism vs Individuality

    An overemphasis on individuality creates a massive cultural blindspot for many Americans.  It is totally understandable to push people to do the best they can for themselves.  However, some cultures care more about their community as a whole and continue to find success over the years through these practices and mindsets.  There is also comfort and safety in collectivity when you are a member of a minority population in America.  Culturally competent professional school counselors should value the entire child, their culture, community, and the lived experiences that they bring forth.

    In America, people strongly believe individualism and push students to fulfill their dreams even if their family disagrees.  The American career seeking mindset is typically about being happy with your own life.  Students are told that happiness is just as important as financial success.  There is a lot of merit to this position because career satisfaction is important but so is purpose.  Studies have shown that people who choose careers for happiness but do not feel a sense of purpose do not remain in their careers (Brooks, 2020).  If community is a part of the students purpose the counselor must honor that in order to give sound advice.

    Additionally, people from other cultures and marginalized backgrounds in America typically employ some form of collectivism.  In some cases, there are many families that are struggling to pay bills to make ends meet or maybe live in multigenerational households to make due.  These families tend to need their children to work in order to provide shelter. Delayed gratification is often not a motivating factor for them because survival is more important.  This type of student may decline to move away for college because their family needs the additional support.  Many low income families also push their children towards careers that are practical and can uplift the entire family over more abstract student-centered pathways.  There are families that are just beginning to build wealth and financial stability together and may not have the luxury of impractical majors because their family is depending on them.

    Immigrant populations sometimes find strength in moving to areas where people from their cultures already live.  Sometimes they open stores, markets, and other businesses that serve the needs of their families and communities.  A lot of immigrants work together to overcome cultural and language barriers.  Some parents may not want to send their child far away from their community because of these factors.  Other families may want their child to work in their family business because they want to build wealth for the next generation.  The students' sacrifice here provides value to the collective and may add purpose to their work.  

    Socioeconomic Anxiety

    Families also have concerns about coronavirus, deportation, police brutality and more.  We are currently living in a very stressful time and marginalized groups are typically disproportionately impacted when times are hard.  Poor people often have fewer resources and many minority populations suffer from unequal access to quality healthcare.  So, parents may be leery of sending their child far away.  Families are also being separated right now due to their citizenship status.  Unarmed black and brown people are being murdered on camera and these videos are being disseminated on social media platforms.  Additionally, some young adults are also very immature and make irrational decisions on college campuses that can jeopardize their safety.  There is so much going on right now and parents are understandably afraid.

    Covid-19 disproportionately impacts minority communities largely because of factors like unequal access to healthcare, obesity, cardiovascular health, being under insured, and more.  Parents may be leery of sending their child, who may not be the most responsible, away to school because of these factors.  Minorities also have a long and complicated history with the American medical system.  Recent studies show that there are major disparities in treatments and outcomes amongst the demographic groups that lead to costly emergency room visits and subpar health outcomes (Oguz, 2020).  Some parents are concerned about sending their children to navigate a pandemic and the health care system alone.

    Parents from immigrant backgrounds may fear deportation or family separation due to their immigration status.  Some families may feel that completing the FAFSA and other college related forms could expose their family to unnecessary harm.  Many of the previous protections that immigrant families have are being rescinded.   Parents are rightfully afraid and may be apprehensive about giving  the federal government access to their names and addresses.  Ideological backgrounds aside, it is human to care about the safety of your family members especially your children.

    Parents are also afraid of police brutality in addition to fears of the coronavirus and deportation.  College students sometimes make very irrational decisions.  Many parents may worry that their child may not receive the benefit of a doubt if they have a police encounter.  No parent wants to receive a call in the middle of the night about the safety and well-being of  their child while they are far away.  Parents want to be there for their child whenever they are in need even if they made a mistake.

    College Expenses Rise, Financial Aid Doesn’t

    One of the most difficult conversations that I have witnessed as an educator was  a parent having to tell their child they could not afford to send them to their dream school. When money is an obstacle, parents will do almost anything to help their child including applying for Parent Plus Loans and private loans.  While some families may succeed in financing a child’s education, there are many others who do not have those options due to issues with their credit score or immigration status.  These legitimate fears may cause angst about high cost postsecondary recommendations.

    The price of college is ever increasing and parents do not want to tell their children that they cannot afford to support them in attending school.  So many students struggle to find aid to attend four year institutions especially when they need to live on campus.  Most institutions in-state and out of state cost more to attend than the maximum amount of federal aid that a freshman can receive. College costs continue to surpass the inflation rate while financial aid has largely remained stagnant (Houle, 2014). Students who do not receive a significant amount of money in scholarships often end up spending exorbitant amounts of money on college attendance.  Like anything else, rising college costs disproportionately impacts marginalized communities that do not have the resources to afford the increased price.  In addition to rising costs, undocumented families cannot receive federal aid.  I have seen some of the most intelligent and talented children (documented or undocumented) struggle to find funding to attend college.

    Different Experiences

    Many families have negative or no experience at all when it comes to postsecondary education.  There are so many first generation families that do not know anyone that has gone to college and honestly do not know anything about the college application process. Additionally, others have not had positive experiences with education in general and may have doubts about their (or their child’s) ability to navigate through the admissions process and ultimately become a first generation college graduate.  It is difficult  for some parents to seek help from educators when they have not had positive educational experiences.  

    There are many parents in America that didn’t finish high school. For those who were labeled “problem students” or feel like they did not receive the help that they needed to be successful , their apprehension toward school counselors and educators presents a unique but not uncommon roadblock. These parents may not be as quick to reach out to the school and ask for help. As such, it is imperative school counselors build relationships with parents and students in order to better support educational goals.. Faith in education may require time and patience to develop.  We are essentially asking many parents to have faith in an educational system they believe failed them under the auspices that the same system will better serve their children. Parental involvement in the college process means school counselors working to overcome past negative experiences and adding an additional layer of perspective from the lens of those who have seen these processes work for the betterment of individuals and communities.

    While navigating the admissions process, students and parents must proactively seek help from counselors, admissions representatives, and financial aid advisors. There are so many components to the college admissions process. Assistance is needed with everything from school and major selection, test preparation, financial aid, applying for scholarships, dorm room deposits, and reading financial aid award letters. In addition to those activities, there is often a lot of correspondence that’s difficult to understand, interpret, and follow through. As counselors, we know the magnitude of work involved in every step. We also know that each step might be met with or burdened by significant barriers for families. For perspective, this process is made significantly harder when parents do not speak English. It is easy to become overwhelmed when applicants are unfamiliar with the process.

    Becoming More Culturally Competent

    The road to cultural competency is never ending because there are so many cultures and subcultures around our country and the world.  The first step in becoming more culturally competent is discovering for yourself why it is important for you to learn more. Grow with a sense of purpose.  If you are culturally different from the community that you serve, seek understanding by talking directly and listening even more to people to understand their fears and concerns.

    Next, seek additional training and resources whenever possible.  Attending professional development and obtaining cultural competency credentials are excellent ways to grow.  Many state and local school counseling associations are beginning to build these resources in an effort to enhance the cultural competency of their members. ASCA has a Cultural Competency Specialist Credential available. On the credential page, there are a bevy of helpful books, articles, webinars, and videos. In addition to this credential, ASCA has a Race and Equity Resource page that provides a lot of resources. Teaching Tolerance also provides articles and email updates that are incredible for building cultural competence.  Finally, Beyond Diversity has a highly recommended cultural competency training program called Courageous Conversations about Race

    If you are interested in working with educators in your community try joining or starting book studies within your district or community.  This is an amazing way to obtain knowledge and grow with your colleagues.  Many districts are beginning to utilize this as a way to build community and improve the knowledge base of the staff.  Many schools also have student clubs like minority based student unions and Gay Straight Alliances.  Get involved with the subgroups in your school! There are so many avenues to grow cultural competency and the road is never ending so enjoy the ride.

    References

    Brooks, A. (2020, June 09). 4 Rules for Identifying Your Life's Work. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/05/how-choose-fulfilling-career/611920/

    Houle, J. N. (2014). Disparities in Debt: Parents’ Socioeconomic Resources and Young Adult Student Loan Debt. Sociology of Education, 87(1), 53–69. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038040713512213

    Jachimowicz, J., To, C., Menges, J., & Akinola, M. (2017, December 7). Igniting Passion from Within: How Lay Beliefs Guide the Pursuit of Work Passion and Influence Turnover. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/qj6y9

    Oguz, T. (2019). Update on Racial Disparities in Access to Healthcare: An Application of Nonlinear Decomposition Techniques*. Social Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), 100(1), 60–75. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.12551



  • Sunday, May 24, 2020 8:00 AM | Kirsten Perry

    Every year, the American School Counselor Association selects one school counselor to be awarded with the title of “School Counselor of the Year”. School counselors of the year are selected based on their ability to create systemic change within the profession through significant leadership, collaboration and advocacy. I had the great honor of being selected as the American School Counselor of the Year in 2018. 

    My story becoming the American School Counselor of the Year begins at Lawndale Elementary Community Academy located on the westside of Chicago in the North Lawndale neighborhood. To give some context, this is the same neighborhood that Martin Luther King Jr. came to live in during the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr. had come to Chicago to bring attention to poor housing conditions for black residents. After his assassination and the riots that occurred after his death, the neighborhood lost a significant amount of job opportunities. Over time, there was an increase in violent crime, homicide rates, substance abuse and other such factors. (Seligman, A. (2005) Encyclopedia of Chicago: North Lawndale. Retrieved fromhttp://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/901.html

    Factors such as these, lack of adequate school funding and high staff turnover rates all had an impact on the school community at Lawndale Community Academy. When I came to the school in 2015, the school was rated as one of the lowest performing schools in the city. The school served roughly 300 students in grades PK-8 that were 97% black and 96% of families reported as low-income. Though I knew that this work would not be easy, one thing that I held true is that relationships and data-informed practices are fundamental to creating change.

    My School Counseling Program: 

    When developing a school counseling program, it is important to begin with a review of school data (American School Counselor Association, 2019). To help guide my selection of key data points, I used studies conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. In the report titled, “Looking Forward to High School and College: Middle Grade Indicators of Readiness in Chicago Public Schools” there is a key finding that middle school student data can be used to create early indicator systems for high school graduation and post-secondary readiness (Allensworth, E., Gwynne, J.,  Moore, P., and de la Torre, M. 2014). In particular, this study showed that grades and attendance during freshman year of high school are the greatest predictors for high school graduation. In response to these studies, Chicago Public Schools created metric systems for monitoring student grades and attendance so that we can identify students that are “on-track or off-track” for high school graduation beginning as early as third grade. As part of my school counseling program, I targeted two metrics based off of this research: student attendance and students “on-track” (a combination metric for grades and attendance). 

    Another data metric that I targeted was also grounded in research by the University of Chicago: Urban Education Institute. UChicago Impact created a survey that assesses school culture and climate in 5 key areas: Effective Leaders, Collaborative Teachers, Involved Families, Supportive Environment, and Ambitious Instruction (UChicago Impact. Retrieved from https://uchicagoimpact.org/our-offerings/5essentials). Researchers found that schools that are strong on at least three of the five essentials were 10 times more likely to show substantial gains in student learning over time than schools weak on three or more of the five essentials. As part of my school counseling program, I targeted the “Involved Families” indicator on this report. 

    Once I had determined the outcome goals for my school counseling program, I next determined the interventions that I would implement. To target student attendance, I used the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Model (McIntosh, K. and Goodman, S. 2016). Within this model, we provided tiered interventions for all students, small groups of students and for individual students based on their level of need. In addition, we worked as teams to review student data, identify data trends, determine potential root causes and select interventions. The Tier 1 practices that I implemented to target student attendance were: school-wide incentive events, assemblies and field trips. The Tier 2 practices that I implemented were individualized check-ins for students, small group goal setting sessions and daily phone calls. The Tier 3 practices that I implemented involved individual parent-student meetings and attendance contracts. I also fundraised over $75,000 for new computers, furniture and incentives to help the school look and feel more welcoming. 

    In addition, to support student attendance, I implemented a number of social and emotional learning interventions. Studies have shown that students that develop positive social and emotional skills, also improve their attachment and attitude towards school (Kendziora, K.  and Yoder, N. 2016). The interventions that I implemented to support social and emotional skill development were done in collaboration with a number of community partnerships that I had brought into the school. I assigned community partners to support students at each grade level. At the Tier 1 level, we taught classes on healthy relationships and community violence. At the Tier 2 level, we facilitated small group counseling or provided mentoring services to students that needed additional support. At the Tier 3 level, we facilitated individual counseling or consultation sessions to support the needs of students with the highest level of social and emotional needs. Also, to improve engagement in the school, I developed a number of after school programs including running, basketball and dance. 

    When targeting the “on-track” metric, I particularly focused on middle school students using college and career readiness interventions. In the report titled “The Forgotten Middle”, it was noted that only 2 out of 10 eighth-grade students are on-track to take courses in high school that will prepare them for college (ACT, Inc., 2008). In Chicago Public Schools, middle students apply for high schools through an application process called GoCPS (gocps.edu). There are many high schools with rigorous academic criteria that students must meet in order to be admitted and in addition there are many career specific programs for students to consider. At the Tier 1 level, I hosted monthly college and career exploration events like school fairs, career fairs, campus visits and field trips. I also provided classroom instruction using Naviance (naviance.com): students set goals, explored careers and postsecondary interests using this online tool. I also hosted school-wide events like college-career week and school PEP rallies. At the Tier 2-3 level, I provided small group and/or individual consultation to students regarding grades, test scores, career interests and high school application processes. 

    To target the 5 essentials “Involved Families”, I implemented a number of interventions. As an elected official for our school’s Local School Council (a governing board responsible for advising and evaluating the school principal, school budget and improvement plans), I was able to be directly involved with the strategic planning for the school. To support parents in becoming more engaged in the school, I hosted monthly family fun nights like dances and literacy nights. I would also host weekly parent workshops to learn about community resources. I hosted quarterly parent meetings by grade-level to learn about their children’s progress in school. I sent home monthly calendars with important information. 

    After 3 years of implementing these interventions, we began to see systemic change happen within the school. Student attendance increased by almost 4%. Chronic absenteeism decreased by 61%. The percentage of students on track in middle school nearly doubled, improving from 17% to 46%. The percentage of “Involved Families” improved from “Very Weak” to “Neutral”. The overall rank of the school improved from the lowest level of performance in Chicago Public Schools, Level 3, to a Level 2.  

    Beyond the school, I also worked to advocate and support the school counseling profession district-wide in Chicago. I served the district as a “Master Counselor” for five years. This is a group of school counselors responsible for presenting best-practices throughout the district, vetting district initiatives and serving as a mentor to new school counselors. I also served on a number of committees to support postsecondary readiness throughout the district and wrote a companion curriculum for middle school Naviance tasks. In addition, I served as a site-supervisor for five school counseling interns throughout my career. 

    The American School Counselor of the Year Award Process:

    Every year, the American School Counselor Association selects one school counselor to be awarded with the title of “School Counselor of the Year”. The process of selection begins with each state-level school counseling association. Each state-level school counseling association determines their own selection process for school counselor of the year and submits the winner for their state to the American School Counselor Association. The winners from each state need to submit a resume, three letters of recommendation and a 5-minute video describing their school counseling program. The application also asks for school counselor nominees answer the following questions: 

    • Give examples of ways you have advocated for the profession throughout your career.

    • What were two or three of your school counseling program goals last year, and how did you address them? Use data to show your progress in meeting these goals.

    • Give an example of a particularly effective collaborative effort you spearheaded with a stakeholder population (administrators, faculty, parents and/or the community).

    • What types of professional development opportunities have you participated in throughout your career, and how was this contributed to your continual learning?

    • How does your comprehensive school counseling program use advocacy, leadership, systemic change and collaboration to make a difference for students?


    Once nominees have submitted their application, a review committee ranks and scores each application, then meets as a group to determine 4-6 school counselors of the year finalists. These finalists are then flown out to Washington D.C. for in-person interviews. The selection committee then votes to determine the individual that will serve as the “School Counselor of the Year”. School counselors of the year are selected based on their ability to create systemic change within the profession through significant leadership, collaboration and advocacy. (American School Counselor Association. Retrieved from: https://www.schoolcounselor.org).

     All school counselor of the year nominees, finalists and award winners are flown out to Washington D.C. for an annual school counselor of the year gala and a series of professional advocacy events at the nation’s capitol. During the year that I won, I had the great honor of having my award presented by former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama continues to be an advocate for school counselors as part of her REACH Higher Initiative and Better Make Room Campaign (https://www.bettermakeroom.org/our-team/). Her mission is to increase the number of students nation-wide attending college, a 2-year institution or completing a professional training program past high school. Mrs. Obama recognizes that school counselors provide critical support to get this work done.  

    Reflections on Becoming the School Counselor of the Year:

    The opportunities that have come my way following this experience are too numerous to mention. I have transitioned to now work in the district office for Chicago Public Schools, I serve as the President-Elect of our Illinois School Counselor Association and teach as an adjunct instructor at my alma mater DePaul University. I have written articles, facilitated presentations and keynotes, participated in blogs and podcasts all over the nation. 

    One thing is certain, I have a voice that can be heard in a way that it wasn’t before. So I have to really think about what my message is. And for me, it is all about relationships and community. This work cannot be done alone and change cannot be created single handedly. As a school counselor, I value the central themes of leadership, collaboration, advocacy and systemic change (American School Counselor Association, 2019). I never worked alone and never created change alone. Collaboration is key to create systemic change. 

    Because school counselors are some of the only school professionals who have access to a wide-variety of information regarding students, they can often be the missing link that helps propel students forward to future success. Though I know school counseling can look different in different countries around the world. School counselors are in a critically important position to help students break down barriers and gain access to college and career options; help students learn skills to successfully navigate social situations and build resiliency; as well as to help students form a strong academic profile. 

    For me, I aim to shine a light on the profession of school counseling and the work that school counselors do everyday that may not ever be recognized. There is so much good work happening out there. There are people that have created change beyond what I ever have. And, there are people out there doing this work for much longer than I ever have. 

    This award is never about the winner, it is always about shining a light on the profession and the impact that school counselors have on children all over the world. In the words of Michelle Obama, “[School counselors] have the power to show [our kids] that no matter how alone or afraid they might feel, they are seen, and they are loved.” (Obama, M. (2018) Retrieved from: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/asca/media/asca/SCOY/TRANSCRIPT-MO-2018.pdf

    Sources:


    ACT (2008). “The Forgotten Middle: Ensuring that All Students Are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School”. Act, Inc. 

    The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs, Fourth Edition. (2019).  Alexandria, VA: Author. 

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