The White House Honors the 2015 School Counselor of the Year

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

First Lady Michelle Obama and actor and singer Connie Britton, right, applaud as Counselor of the Year Cory Notestine, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., delivers remarks during the Counselor of the Year event in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama and actor and singer Connie Britton, right, applaud as Counselor of the Year Cory Notestine, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., delivers remarks during the Counselor of the Year event in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative closed out the week with a very special thank you to some of the hardest-working, caring, and critically important adults charged with putting young people on the path to college: America’s school counselors.

In collaboration with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the White House, for the first time ever, hosted the Counselor of the Year Ceremony. The First Lady, along with television star Connie Britton, spoke in the East Room to honor the 36 finalists and semi-finalists, and 2015 School Counselor of the Year, Cory Notestine.

This past July, when the First Lady spoke at the ASCA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, she declared that “school counseling is a necessity to ensure that all our young people get the education they need to succeed in today’s economy.” She also promised to bring the Counselor of the Year Ceremony to the White House – and this afternoon, that promise became a reality.

Starting things off, Connie Britton reflected on her stint portraying high school counselor Tami Taylor in the hit TV series “Friday Night Lights.” She commended the room full of counselors for their efforts, stressing that “we all owe our school counselors a great debt of gratitude” as they work to support and nurture our students, putting them on the path to higher education.

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Counselor of the Year event for Cory Notestine, left, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Counselor of the Year event for Cory Notestine, left, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Following Ms. Britton, the First Lady took the stage and emphasized that counselors are the ones who “track students down who don’t think they’re college material, or who don’t think they can afford it, and they shake them up and they tell them, ‘You have what it takes, I believe in you, now fill out those FAFSA forms and sign up for those AP classes, get started on those college essays.’”

To close out the program, Cory Notestine, a counselor at Alamosa High School in Colorado, took to the stage. “I know when I started my career,” he said, “I wanted nothing more than to be an advocate for those without a voice, and to collaborate to make systemic changes in my school to provide a more equal educational environment.” 

The Reach Higher initiative believes that terrific, well-trained counselors like Cory are essential if the United States wants to meet President Obama’s goal of once again leading the world in terms of having the highest proportion of young people with college degrees. And with Cory’s help, we’re going to get there. 

To read more about Cory and the exemplary strides that he has made within Alamosa High School’s counseling department, check out the First Lady’s remarks here.

Eric Waldo is Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative.