Local school counselors join collaborative network


Staff Report editor@wataugademocrat.com |  Nov 2, 2023 | Originally published HERE.

BOONE — The next iteration of the GEAR UP Counselor Network kicked off on Oct. 25 at the campus of UNC Asheville. Forty-nine school counselors joined the year two cohort of the Counselor Network representing 26 schools from seven counties (Alleghany, Ashe, Burke, Madison, Swain, Yancey and Watauga) across western North Carolina.

Appalachian GEAR UP established the Counselor Network in 2022 as a means to connect counselors in rural districts where they may feel isolated from others in similar roles. One of the challenges in this region is that the majority of the counties have one small public high school. Small student population means counselors likely have no one within the county in a job-alike role. School counselors play a critical role in the postsecondary process, a key goal for GEAR UP, and collaboration plays an important role in advancing positive student results.

“I appreciate that this PD is specifically for school counselors and how we can work toward meeting our standards. I also like the opportunity to collaborate with the other counselors," said Kristy Aldridge, Counselor Network participant from Ashe County Middle School.

This year, the program adds the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) as a partner. ASCA developed the national model of school counseling which has been adopted by North Carolina and most other states. With ASCA’s guidance, GEAR UP school counselors will create a comprehensive school counseling plan using a tiered approach to counseling services that addresses academic, mental health, and postsecondary domains. This plan will use school data to identify needs and put a measurement system in place to capture progress.

Last year, participants developed a Postsecondary Equity Plan for their schools. The counselors analyzed school data, gaps in services, and in partnership with their GEAR UP coordinators, created an annual plan. The purpose of the plan was to make sure there was equity of access to postsecondary information and support within their schools.

GEAR UP Assistant Director of College Access Impact Services, Wes Calbreath, helped to establish the Counselor Network and currently directs the program.

"GEAR UP knows that counselor leadership plays an integral role in improving postsecondary outcomes for students," Calbreath said. "Connecting counselors with each other and sharing successful practices across the region will multiply that effect.”

 Year one results were very positive. Counselors met 87% of their established goals with the majority of those being in the Accomplished and Distinguished categories. Further analysis using a pre- and post- assessment also showed significant growth amongst counselors in the areas of Knowledge Related to Systems and Advocacy and Self-Efficacy in Using Data and Understanding Systemic Change.

 “I went through the Counselor Network program during the 22-23 school year. It was a great experience being able to collaborate with other counselors to focus on goals for my school and finding the best ways to help my students to be successful," said Jessica Yates, counselor at Ashe Early College High School. "I'm really excited about being a part of the Counselor Network 2.0 this year to work with ASCA representatives to better align my comprehensive school counseling plan to the ASCA model.”

 To learn more about GEAR UP, visit gocollege.appstate.edu.

Counselors from Alleghany, Ashe, Burke Madison, Swain, Yancey and Watauga counties taking part in the GEAR UP Counselor Network.

Counselors from Alleghany, Ashe, Burke Madison, Swain, Yancey and Watauga counties taking part in the GEAR UP Counselor Network.
Published: Nov 3, 2023 3:40pm