Plenary speaker Maria Ferrier, executive director of Texas A&M University-Kingsville System Center-San Antonio
College Board's First National Conference for School Counselors
On a sunny Sunday morning in Houston, 200 counselors from across the nation assembled for the first College Board conference
for school counselors, Destination Equity: Charting Bright Futures for All Students. The College Board’s National Office for School Counselor Advocacy had arranged the Texas conference to help these influential student advocates sharpen their skills as they work to ensure that the future of their students is not limited by lack of academic preparation and information.
The opening keynote speaker at the April 13-15 conference was Gene Nichol, a former president and current law professor at the College of William and Mary, who teaches constitutional law and civil rights. In his address, Nichol told the counselors that their work affects our future. He said they are more important than anyone else in the building. “Your efforts and your leadership are even more crucial for first-generation and poor students. Your indispensable role is the promise of education.”
He went on to say that our national house is not in order; there is a large gap between our words and our actions. Systemwide inequities in success show that the “playing field is badly askew. … We treat some of our students as second- and third-class citizens.” We cannot accept the gap between our words and our deeds; the American Dream is for all.
In “The Eight Components of College Readiness Counseling: A Comprehensive Approach,” Sharon Sevier, director of guidance and counseling in the Rockwood (Mo.) R-VI School District, and Beth Collier, college and career specialist at the Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton, reviewed the NOSCA college readiness counseling components to a standing-room-only crowd.
The district has 30 schools and 22,000 students. With the fully implemented, comprehensive guidance program and a counselor-to-student ratio of 375 to one, they have raised student achievement among all racial groups above state means. The components of their program include:
- Building aspirations for students, counselors, other
staff and families;
- Academic planning and college preparation;
- Engaging students in enrichment and community activities;
- Providing college assessments and preparation;
- Making students comfortable with college selection and application processes;
- Applying for financial aid and scholarships;
- Getting to college after high school graduation (including college credit courses, transitions scholarships, and support of their board of education and superintendent); and
- Using data for equity, urgency, data-driven strategies and interventions, and evaluation.
At the plenary session on Monday, Maria Ferrier, executive director of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville System Center in San Antonio, shared her own experiences of going to college as a divorced mother of two in an effort to improve her life and the lives of her children. As a counselor, she has found that “students need someone to believe in them while expecting the best
You can make a difference in the lives of students, she said, but you can’t do it alone. She has successfully used high school students to mentor middle school students. The improvement in both the high school students and those in the middle school was significant. “Students soar when they believe they can make a difference.” Ferrier also has successfully set up mentoring programs with key community groups, including staff at a nearby Air Force base. She concluded saying, “The future is in your hands. America is in your hands.”