Validation: D.C. trip re-energizes honored Georgetown Middle School counselor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Shaking the hand of former First Lady Michelle Obama was certainly memorable.

For nationally recognized Georgetown Middle School counselor Erin Crooks, her primary takeaway from a recent trip to Washington, D.C. is re-charged energy.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Kennedy Center during a ceremonial gathering of six national finalists for the American School Counselor Association’s Counselor of the Year. Georgetown Middle School counselor Erin Crooks (immediate left behind Ms. Obama) was one of the six finalists.

“I think what I brought back in more general terms is just a recharged enthusiasm to work on behalf of our students. It sort of validated that our efforts are making a difference and that we need to continue this work,” said Ms. Crooks. “I came back just re-energized to better our practices and help reach all of our students.”

One of two counselors on the staff at Georgetown Middle School, Ms. Crooks was named 2017 Delaware School Counselor of the Year by the Delaware School Counselor Association last spring. She had been selected Middle School Counselor of the Year by the DSCA in February 2017.

She was subsequently named one of six national finalists. That earned her the trip to D.C.

In the nation’s capital she got to be part of a panel presentation on social/emotional learning to school educational leaders, school officials and policy makers. She also met with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and his staffers and Sen. Chris Coons’ educational staff.

U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper and Erin Crooks recognize National School Counseling week.

David Hudson, Georgetown Middle School principal, also made the three-day trip to Washington.

A memorable highlight was the Feb. 2 ceremony at the Kennedy Center. There, Ms. Obama delivered a speech and introduced the American School Counselor Association’s 2018 School Counselor of the Year: Kirsten Perry, a counselor at a school in Chicago.

“I didn’t get speak with her (Michelle Obama) or have like a sit-down or anything like that with her. I shook her hand at the end of her speech,” said Ms. Crooks. “

The night before, Ms. Crooks and other finalists attended a dinner with ASCA representatives and staff who worked for or with Reach Higher. That is Ms. Obama’s initiative to motivate every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether that be a professional training program, community college or four-year college or university.

“Reach Higher is Michelle Obama’s initiative to get under-represented and first-generation students to college. It is just amazing how much work she is putting in and her staffers are putting in to reaching our students,” said Ms. Crooks. “I was just inspired by the work that they are doing, and I want to make sure we are replicating it here in Sussex County here in Delaware.”

“We had dinner with some of those folks to discuss how policy meets sort of the boots on the ground and what we are doing at the school level, starting in elementary school, moving to middle and through high school to further the efforts of Reach Higher and get our students to and through college or post-secondary options,” Ms. Crooks said. “The folks that I was speaking with were talking about our ‘dreamers,’ our Hispanic population and making sure they have access and equity to post-secondary options as well, despite their status or despite their family’s knowledge of college and career.”

Ms. Crooks has been a counselor at GMS since 2009. The previous two years she was at neighboring Georgetown Elementary.

One of her priorities over the past nine years has been taking Georgetown Middle School students on college campus visits. Trips with more than 350 students have included visits to the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Morgan State University, Delaware Technical & Community College, Rutgers University and the University of Maryland.

Through all of the honors and notoriety, she says she is incredibly humbled.

“It was worth every application or everything I put into it. And you know, part of me still doesn’t understand exactly why I was recognized, in the sense that what I do I don’t do it in isolation. I collaborate with my co-counselor (Marie Keffer) and my staff every day. So, any award that I get belongs to the whole staff. Everything that I was recognized for are initiatives that she and I work on together,” said Ms. Crooks, who resides in Millville with her husband and two children.

“I feel extremely proud to be honored by ASCA and will continue to work tirelessly to advocate for the school counseling profession and the impact school counselors have on students in the domains of social/emotional, academic and college and career.,” said Ms. Crooks. “At the building level, I’m committed to continuing to improve our school counseling program to reach the needs of all students.”

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