There were a lot of memorable moments at last week’s American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Conference in Orlando, but by far the highlight for me was listening to Michelle Obama talk about her Reach Higher initiative and the challenges facing school counselors today. The goal of the initiative seems familiar: increase post-secondary attainment. However, what’s unique about this initiative is the emphasis being given to the role of the school counselor in helping to reach this nationwide goal. And, as the numbers in the quote from the First Lady’s speech above demonstrate, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
According to the White House, the Reach Higher initiative will help make sure all students understand what they need to complete their education, including:
- Exposing students to college and career opportunities
- Understanding financial aid eligibility that can make college affordability a reality
- Encouraging academic planning and summer learning opportunities
- Supporting high school counselors who can help more kids get into college
So why do we care about this initiative? First of all, it makes school counseling part of the national dialogue on college and career readiness, which usually is dominated by talk of test scores and state standards. And second, it highlights the tremendous lack of resources available today to help provide quality school counseling to students, which is a challenge that few people realize exists, outside of those of us who work in education.
However, despite raising the profile of school counselors in this national discussion about student achievement, the First Lady also had a call to action for professional school counselors. Mrs. Obama asked school counselors to take on the challenge of playing an even bigger role in encouraging college and post-secondary attainment, just as they did following the days of the space race, when Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, calling for the training of more school counselors.
To support this effort, the White House is partnering with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and ASCA to develop new ideas to improve training, professional development and support for school counselors.
As a service organization to hundreds-of-thousands of school counselors around the world, we here at Hobsons are excited to see such a valuable constituency finally receive attention from a figure as prominent as Mrs. Obama. We know about the struggles facing school counselors, not only because of the statistics cited above, but also because of real-life conversations we have with them every day. We’re hopeful that initiatives like Reach Higher will be the first step towards getting school counselors the attention and resources they deserve. And we want to do all we can to help, not only through the products and services we deliver, but by supporting the community as well, which is why we often sponsor events like ASCA.
However, this year, our impact was even more direct thanks to one counselor who saw an opportunity to help others.We were proud to sponsor a registration to the ASCA conference for a school counselor that may not have otherwise been able to attend the event. It was a great cause driven by Jeff Ream, a Naviance Network member and founder of TheCounselingGeek.com. Jeff is committed to providing online professional development and learning tools to counselors like him, and took things to the next level by turning to the community to help fund this scholarship. We were happy to help, and we were truly humbled when one of the recipients, Karon Parrish of Star City Middle School in Arkansas stopped by to thank us.
We know forums like the ASCA conference are an important venue for school counselors to continue to hone their craft and better support student success, which is why we were excited to participate as exhibitors at this year’s event. And we were especially thankful for hearing first-hand from attendees like Karon about how much these opportunities mean to them.
Just like the First Lady, we value the work counselors do everyday to help students, and we’re committed to helping them develop professionally in whatever way we can. Thank you!
For a transcript of the First Lady’s remarks, click here.