This award recognizes graduate counseling students with exceptional insight and understanding about the school counseling profession and the work of professional school counselors who interact with elementary, middle school or high school students.

Winner: Rebecca Alexandra Smith

Rebecca Alexandra Smith is currently pursuing her masters of science in counselor education with specializations in school counseling and clinical mental health counseling at East Carolina University. She plans to become a North Carolina school counselor as well as a licensed clinical mental health counselor (LCMHC). Her passion is working with children, adolescents, and families to address the various personal, relational, and systemic challenges that impact their lives.





Robby Novak said, “You don’t need a cape to be a hero. You just need to care.” With the help of adults who believed in him, Robby Novak became the witty and wise “Kid President” who has inspired others since 2012. Many young people, however, go without the security of a healthy support system and their well-being is risked as a result. School counseling gives all students access to someone who supports them, advocates for them, and believes in them wholeheartedly.

To measure the effectiveness of school counseling, we should shift our focus to social and emotional outcomes rather than academic outcomes, since achievement gaps often prohibit equal access for student academic success. Considering this, healthy decision-making skills and the ability to cope with adversity are the most important non-academic outcomes. They are significant because of the long-term benefits that can potentially enhance students’ educational accomplishments and personal victories throughout their lifespan.

Informed decision making can be difficult for all students because of varying backgrounds or environments. When a counselor works with students to develop this skill through modeling, workshops, reinforcement, or goal setting, they can discover the power that healthy decision-making has on their lives. We can evaluate students’ decision-making skills by recording conduct reports, levels of engagement with peers, post-graduation planning, and parent and teacher evaluations. When students develop this skill, conduct will likely improve, relationship choices will become healthier, they will become more goal-oriented, and parents and teachers will report signs of improved behavior such as turning in homework assignments on time or showing kindness to a classmate.

Another central part of school counseling is the ability to equip our students with ways to cope with adversity. Learning these skills during brain development builds a strong foundation for managing stress, change, and negative emotions throughout students’ entire lives. One way to prepare students with tools to self-regulate is through direct instruction, but we can also help by educating families, communities, and teachers about how to integrate coping skills into everyday life. We can document this outcome through student self-reports, parent and teacher evaluations, direct observations of the use of coping skills, or an assessment of their emotional and behavioral health. Ideally, students who can cope with adversity will be able to verbally express their problems and reach out for support, engage in appropriate activities that increase their self- concept, possess a willingness to persist even when faced with setbacks, and/or show an increased mood and decreased levels of stress.

All students can increase their chances of lasting academic and personal attainment when they learn to make healthy decisions and appropriately cope with adversity. To promote these outcomes, school counselors must be willing to be teachers, coaches, liaisons, and advocates for students’ social, emotional, and academic well-being. Only then can barriers to success begin to break down, allowing us to be the heroes that produce heroes in our students. All it takes is care; no capes needed.



Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.