Carroll County Public Schools has two of the three Counselors of the Year for Maryland. As members of the same feeder system, both counselors provide support and resources for the Westminster community.
Cathlin McCormick, of East Middle School, and Kristin Cavey, of Winters Mill High School, were named Maryland Middle School Counselor of the Year and Maryland High School Counselor of the Year by the Maryland School Counselor Association (MSCA).
The winners were selected on criteria including leadership and advocacy initiatives and contributions to student outcomes by a panel of parents, teachers, administrators and fellow counselors.
Cavey and McCormick will receive their awards at the MSCA’s National School Counseling Week gala on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Annapolis.
Both Cavey and McCormick serve as the department chairs of their school’s counseling program. CCPS recognized them particularly for their volunteer leadership in the Sources of Strength (SOS) program at their schools.
The program was prompted when CCPS learned that the county has the second-highest rate of suicide completion in Maryland and the highest number of attempts among adolescents.
SOS is designed as a youth suicide prevention program that builds a network of students helping their peers. The goal is to “change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. The program reaches out to students to let them know that they have friends and resources to turn to in times of need,” according to CCPS.
One of the things she talked about was being the broker of support and resources for not just students, but parents, too, who might reach out.
One of the things that defines her role as a counselor is working with students, parents, teachers, administration, and the community as a "go-to for support, ideas, resources and at times, just a safe, calm place where they can vent and share their thoughts and feelings.”
“We don’t work in silos,” she said.
She called being honored “extremely humbling” and hopes that the recognition will grow beyond her individual success and bring recognition for what counselors do, she said. She also thanked her administrators, including principal Jamie Carver and CCPS Counseling Supervisor Judy Klinger, for their advocacy and support.
Especially at the elementary school level, schools across the state are challenged when the student-to-counselor ratio gets too high. Bringing attention to this and budgeting for more counselors where they are needed is important, she said.
CCPS recognized McCormick, for going "above and beyond by helping students in the East Middle School community, allowing them to know their self-worth and their ability and to become self-confident young adults. The students are always her first priority.”
She wrote in her application to MSCA, “Being a school counselor is not just a job or career that I selected; it is a passion that I hope to impart to others each day.”
She quoted educator and author Stephen Covey, who said, “What you do has a far greater impact than what you say,” continuing, "I hope that what I have done and will be able to continue to do is to start at the grassroots level and work with others to affect positive change and reach our students; regardless of where they are in life. Unconditional acceptance, regard and respect for all.”
Kristin Cavey, Winters Mill
“The first time I walked into a school, I knew that that was where I belonged,” Cavey said.
She began her career teaching elementary school for nine years. In the school, she said, she saw the way counselors interacted with students and had a positive impact on their lives. She decided to move to the counseling side, which brought her back to some of what she had studied as a psychology major in undergraduate, considering work as an addiction counselor.
“When I went back to grad school, I decided to pursue counseling,” she said. "And again, as soon as I started the coursework, I knew that that was what I was meant to do.
Of working with high school students, she said, “I love it. Their problems sometimes can be a little bit bigger, but you’re able to relate to them in a different way. ... I really enjoy working with high school age, and it would be hard for me to go back now.”
CCPS wrote in a news release, “Cavey promotes equity and access to opportunities for all students in the school. She is vital to the Winters Mill community on a variety of levels.”
The recognition from MSCA was unexpected, she said, “but I think anything that can highlight the role of the school counselor, and how our role is so crucial inside of school ... I was very proud to to represent our school and the county.”
She hoped it would highlight the whole team she works with.
“I know how hard all the school counselors in this county work,” she said. “We really work with kids in all aspects of their educational career: academics, personal, social. [Counselors] are helping them prepare for what they want to do career and college-wise.”