Celebration: A Strategy for Success

As students’ biggest advocates, counselors should play a vested role in celebrating students’ greatest successes. Watch how celebration becomes a strategy for inspiration.


CHALLENGE: Help students understand counselors believe in them.

TERRY QUIROS (Senior Counselor, South Bronx Prep) – Having a school that truly believes in student support—that doesn’t just say it, but does it—and that makes sure kids are connected. It takes a lot of care, and is well worth it.

NARRATOR – The most important success story for any high school student is the journey to college readiness, and with that, college acceptance. So when counselors take charge of celebrating those stories, it makes impactful, meaningful and lasting memories for students’ younger peers.

BEST PRACTICE: Build a spirited, college-going culture.

DONNA MARIE COZINE (Implementation Manager, College Board Schools) – It’s about celebrating kids’ success, not miring down in what they are not successful with.

PRINCIPAL TOYIA WILSON (Northwest College Prep High School, Rochester, NY) – At the end, the big event is graduation.

BEST PRACTICE: Counselors should have an active role in school culture to demonstrate to students: “We’re all in this together.”

PRINCIPAL TOYIA WILSON – So the advisors are incorporated into our graduation. Our graduation ceremony is very different than the normal, traditional graduation. We wanted to make it so that each child felt like it was a spotlight. And the counselors are a huge part of making that personal graduation so significant for each child, because each counselor stands at the podium, and while a child is walking, there is a personal story told.

BEST PRACTICE: Have counselors play an integral role in personalizing the school experience, from day one through graduation.

DONNA MARIE COZINE – The counselor had a story for every student about a trial or tribulation that they went through or something they overcame, and they knew which school they were going to and often had taken them there for their visits.

PRINCIPAL TOYIA WILSON – So that is what made the big, “Oh my goodness, this feels like my own personal graduation,” because the counselors added that special touch that put it over the top.

COUNSELOR DALE SCHAMBACK (Northwest College Prep High School) – Yes, we work with a difficult population of students sometimes, but with the right attitude and the right mission, you can turn that around.

COUNSELOR NAKIA BURROWS (Northwest College Prep High School) – We’ve taken students who’ve come to us as tenth graders and eleventh graders—we’ve even taken some students who’ve come to us as seniors who were not on track to graduate—and we’ve found ways to get those students back on track.

COUNSELOR DALE SCHAMBACK – It’s the whole reason why we do the job that we do. It’s those circumstances where kids thrive in the face of adversity that makes the job worth it.

NARRATOR – SAT test preparation is the perfect flashpoint that demonstrates effective and inspirational communication between Principal Wilson, her students, and the team of counselors and advisors.

PRINCIPAL TOYIA WILSON – Every student is expected to take the SAT. And in many schools that’s not the case. So what we do is register—starting in ninth grade—all of our students to take the PSAT, and they take it every year until their junior year. At the end of the junior year, they take the SAT. We register all of our juniors to take it the same Saturday at the same location.

DONNA MARIE COZINE – Advisors go pick kids at their houses if they need rides in. I mean, it is just a rite of passage here. It is very powerful.

PRINCIPAL TOYIA WILSON – Then we show up wearing our Northwest gear with little goodie bags and a personalized note for each student saying, “You can do this. You can get through this.” What we found is that the following year when they’re seniors and they have to take it for the second time, we don’t hold their hand, and we have the highest percentage of students in our district who go back and take the SAT for the second time, because it’s expected.

COUNSELOR DALE SCHAMBACK – You just have to show the kids that they do have a place here in our school, that they do fit in. Any of the initiatives that we do to create a positive atmosphere—a college-going culture here—that’s really what drives our school.