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School Counselor of the Year to Be Honored at White House

Making good on first lady Michelle Obama's promise last summer, the award for the 2015 School Counselor of the Year will be given at the White House today.

Corey Notestine, 33, a school counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colo., will be recognized with the top honor from the American School Counselor Association, based in Alexandria, Va., in a ceremony this afternoon.

The four finalists are:

•Jennifer  Degruise,  Montegut Middle School, Montegut, La.

•Jennifer Diaz,  White Oak Elementary School, Sugar Hill, Ga.

•Liz Parker, Dumbarton Elementary School,  Laurel, Va.

•Tawnya Pringle, Hoover High School, San Diego, Calif.

While the Teacher of the Year has traditionally been recognized at the White House, this is the first year that the counselor award receives the same treatment at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The first lady has highlighted the role of school counselors as part of her Reach Higher initiative, which encourages all young people to aspire to some form of postsecondary education. Addressing the school counseling association in July, Ms. Obama pledged to bring the counselor award ceremony to Washington this year.

Notestine was selected, in part, for his work to improve college advising. His high school reached out to host meetings for the first time that encouraged parents to better understand the college search process and assist with financial aid forms. College representatives also were invited to the school to meet with the seniors, most of whom are the first in their families to attend college, and review their applications.

The school ramped up its effort to connect students to financial support with a new scholarship committee and newsletter.  Students in the shool's graduating class of 2013 were awarded about $1.3 million in grants and scholarships, more than $400,000 above that of the previous year, said Notestine in a phone interview.

Notestine, who is in this third year at Alamosa, also helped oversee the growth of the high school's concurrent enrollment programs with nearby Adams State University.  Last year, about 82 percent of graduating seniors left Alamosa with college credit earned through the partnership, he said.

Heavy caseloads and tight budgets have made it difficult for many of the nation's counselors to find the time to devote to college advising. Notestine said that tracking data on students' needs and outcomes has helped him focus on postsecondary transition.

"Once everyone is on the same page and understands this is a collaborative effort to move forward, more people are going to buy in," he said. "When they can see those hard numbers and facts that we are changing the culture...that creates the drive and momentum."

Today's White House ceremony will be livestreamed today at 1 p.m. EST.

Mrs. Obama writes about counselors building bridges to college today in an article in USA Today,

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