In 2005, the Texas School Counselor Association (TSCA) implemented the CREST (Counselors Reinforcing Excellence for Students in Texas) program to identify outstanding counseling programs in Texas schools.
This year, TSCA will recognize 70 such campuses from around the state; among the honorees is Vega Elementary and Counselor Jennifer Perry.
Schools receiving CREST awards have demonstrated a strong commitment to using their school guidance and counseling program to improve the lives and achievement of students in academic, career and personal/social domains.
Perry is the first to point out that Vega’s success has been the result of a community effort. “I’m very, very excited for our kids and our teachers and our parents and our community,” said Perry. “We would not have been able to earn this award without our kids and our parents and our teachers all coming together and doing all of these things.”
The CREST continuous improvement document helps counselors evaluate their counseling programs, promote their programs to the stakeholders in their districts, demonstrate the effectiveness of their guidance and counseling programs and implement the Texas and national models for school counseling programs.
CREST focuses on seven areas: Principal’s Support, School Counseling Advisory Council, School Climate and Safety, Student Results, Major Achievement, Community Partnerships and Resources and Parent Collaboration. The guidance support team prepares a document that highlights those areas and communicates what the counseling program is doing to help students succeed. The documents are sent to reviewers throughout the state to be judged according to pre-set standards of excellence.
“I think when people hear ‘school counselor,’ they think of services related to social and personal concerns—and, that’s certainly a significant part of what counselors do,” said MISD Senior Director of Guidance and Counseling Jennifer Akins. “But, counselors also have the capacity to support academic success as well. Jennifer has really found a way to help Vega students achieve.”
Vega Principal Mike Forsyth said that Perry brought in resources to help their students in the personal/social domain, and Vega teachers put them to work. “We do something called community circle every day where the teacher sits down with the students,” said Forsyth. “We’ll talk about different character traits or give them different hypothetical scenarios to talk through as a class and build that community in the school.”
The school focused on building relationships with parents to better understand how to reach struggling students. “We’re working on a partnership rather than just a one-way communication type of thing,” said Forsyth.
As far as academic progress is concerned, Perry played a significant role in raising achievement for some of the school’s more at-risk students by bringing in tutors and targeting annual benchmarks for each child.
“We consistently tutored and tutored and tutored them,” Perry said. After a year, 98 percent of that group had met their academic goal.
Walking through the school’s main corridor, Perry pointed out that Vega is a No Excuses University college-bound campus, and the trappings of a multitude of universities are visible throughout the halls and classrooms. That’s the trajectory they are pointing their students toward.
“We are what they have, so we have to give everything every day to help these kids have a better life,” said Perry. “And, the parents are involved in it, and we partner with them. We couldn’t do it without everybody getting on board and doing it together.”
On Sunday, Feb. 18, Vega was honored at the Professional School Counselor Conference at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas.