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Thursday, March 23, 2023

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The convening will focus on creating and implementing action plans for improving school counseling programs. The convening will focus on creating and implementing action plans for improving school counseling programs.

In the National Spotlight

SDSU will host a meeting of White House advisers and school counselors.
By Natalia Elko

In partnership with the White House's College Opportunity Agenda and the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative, San Diego State University will host the west coast convening of leaders and advocates for the school counseling profession. The convening will focus on creating and implementing action plans for improving school counseling programs with the goal of increasing college access for all students.

“We know that access to high quality school counseling is essential for all students, especially first generation, low income students, in order to make post-secondary completion a reality,” said Eric Waldo, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative. 

The invitation only convening will take place Nov. 17 to 18, at SDSU’s Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

It will provide a unique opportunity for leaders in K-12 and higher education, as well as college access and community partners, to take a deep look at training and professional development practices and policies that best prepare and support school counselors to advance college opportunities for students.

“The White House convening at SDSU aligns with our university’s strong focus on leadership and excellence. We are proud to prepare school counselors as leaders, advocates and systems change agents with a particular focus on addressing and removing access and opportunity barriers to college readiness for all students,” said Trish Hatch, director of SDSU’s school counseling program.

From East to West

Several historic milestones preceded this west coast convening. In January, the White House sponsored a summit during which President Barack Obama called for “an ambitious new agenda aimed at improving college value, removing barriers to innovation and competition, and ensuring that student debt remains affordable.”

Following that, First Lady Michelle Obama announced her Reach Higher Initiative, which aims to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by graduating with a college degree. One of its main goals included supporting high school counselors who can help those students get there.

Shortly thereafter, when senior White House staff convened a session on school counseling, Hatch and Laura Owen, who joined the SDSU faculty this fall — along with other experts in their field — were invited to examine and share current challenges and opportunities school counselors face as they strive to support students’ college aspirations.

After a convening this summer at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education focused on maximizing the impact and influence of school counselors on college enrollment, the White House asked for volunteers to host the next session in fall 2014, which would be geared toward creating a structure to achieve results.

With the support of SDSU President Elliot Hirshman and Joe Johnson, dean of the College of Education, Hatch and Owen invited the White House to SDSU.

“Low income, first generation, and students of color often have the greatest need for information and support navigating the college admissions and financial aid process, yet they frequently are the least likely to have access to a qualified and credentialed school counselor.  Now we have a mechanism to develop policies and practices to correct this,” Owen said.

Supporting the President’s 2020 Goal

Centered around President Obama’s "North Star" goal — that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world — the meeting will focus on creating measurable action plans for systemic change within the school counseling profession in several specific areas.

Some of the goals include:

  • revising the school counselor preparation in higher education to ensure that pre-service training standards for all school counselors include College and Career Readiness
  • development of partnerships between university training programs and K-12 school districts to ensure field practices reflect what today’s school counselors need to know and be able to do
  • supporting professional development in districts for school counselors and college access partners
  • creating policies, practices and procedures for hiring and placement of school counselors and college access partners
  • and creating strategic partnerships with donors and funders interested in supporting this work

Other outcomes of the event specifically supporting President Obama’s 2020 goal include solidifying at least 20 working groups; formalizing at least 20 strategic action plans; and confirming commitments for future opportunities that will assist in meeting the goals and outcomes stated above over the next two years and beyond.

“There is no better time to take action than now for the future of the students we serve,” Hatch said. “This group includes hundreds of passionate change agents who support the President’s College Opportunity Agenda and the Reach Higher Initiatives. We have teams representing more than 30 states and many more who will be viewing it on live feed — all focusing on ways to ensure school counselors are adequately prepared within their roles to provide the vital college readiness and career preparation services students deserve to receive.”