The trustees of the American Counseling Association Foundation recently honored Angie Reese Hawkins, Ervin Bernard Reid and ACAF Past Chair Clemmie Solomon with 2006 Bridgebuilder Awards. The three were selected for their support and service to ACAF’s signature project Growing Happy and Confident Kids. The special initiative utilizes literature as a counseling tool and strives to increase self-esteem, self-efficacy, understanding of emotions and coping strategies among young students.

“The world in which our kids grow and develop has been made fragile by threats both near and far,” said ACAF Chair Jane Goodman. “In schools, competition to succeed, peer pressure and aggressive behavior by bullies are representative of the myriad threats to individual success and self-esteem. At home, relationships can become tenuous or broken. In neighborhoods and communities, violence, gangs, substance abuse and other problems are more prevalent than ever before. Finally, in the larger world, no child can turn on a television set and not witness crime, war, terrorism and global unrest.

“Using the love and promotion of reading among elementary school-age children, the GHCK initiative will identify and use approximately 30 works of children’s literature as the launching point for individual and group interaction that will allow participating children to become more aware, expressive and confident — qualities ACAF believes will add to their potential to succeed in school and society.”

Hawkins, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, has embraced the spirit of the Growing Happy and Confident Kids project and has welcomed use of the donated literature in many of the YMCA’s school programs in the Washington area. Solomon presented the award to Hawkins for her dedication to and cooperation with the project.

Reid, a business developer and political consultant, was part of the ACA Foundation Steering Committee and has donated much of his own time and money to the cause of Growing Happy and Confident Kids. “Ervin was the first to step up and ask ’What can I do?’” said Solomon. He pointed out that Reid initially suggested the collaboration between ACAF and the YMCA and was instrumental in forging that partnership.

In a slight surprise, Goodman turned the tables and presented Solomon with a Bridgebuilder Award for his vision for Growing Happy and Confident Kids, the ACA Foundation’s inaugural signature project. Solomon initiated and planned the project last year during his tenure as chair of the foundation.

So far counselors in more than 20 schools and community agencies have implemented the emotional education literature venture. Each of the books being used in the Growing Happy and Confident Kids project (see sidebar below) was selected for its relevance to growth and development matters faced by today’s children. Many of the authors of the selected books have been recognized for their works and their contributions to helping kids understand personal, family and societal issues. The ACA Foundation’s goal is to reach 1,000 elementary schools during the next five years.

The ACA Foundation continues to review applications and select elementary school counselors and their schools to participate in the Growing Happy and Confident Kids project. To be eligible for participation in the project, interested counselors and schools must:

  • Possess a commitment to using children’s literature as a vehicle for promoting self-esteem, self-efficacy, understanding of emotions, coping strategies or an appreciation of diversity
  • Submit an application signed by both the counselor and the principal
  • Follow ACAF-developed activities and literature user guides in counseling activities for a period of one school year
  • Evaluate the impact of the Growing Happy and Confident Kids initiative in the school and submit a final report to the ACA Foundation at the end of the project

The ACA Foundation reserves the right to select qualifying schools for participation on a first-come, first-served basis and to ensure broad geographic distribution. In addition, preference will be given to credentialed school counselors and counselors who are members of ACA, and to schools that serve children who are disadvantaged economically or in other measurable ways.

Each school selected for participation by ACAF will receive, at no cost, 10 books of its choice from among the 30 being offered by the Growing Happy and Confident Kids project, along with an activity and discussion guide. Each book will address one or more of the issues identified by the Growing Happy and Confident Kids project, and the guide will provide information regarding how that book might be used in the counseling environment.

Using the discussion guide, counselors will integrate the project’s activities into their ongoing counseling activities while also encouraging students to read the provided literature on their own. “We hope that the books and accompanying discussion guides will allow children to become more aware, expressive and confident,” Goodman said.

For additional information about the Growing Happy and Confident Kids project, contact the ACA Foundation via e-mail at or by calling 800.347.6647 ext. 350.