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Niswonger Foundation Third Annual Counselor Convening

White House Representative Addresses Northeast Tennessee Counselor Convening

             ERIC WALDO              KIM WEITKAMP         LEIGH BAGWELL

A White House representative, fairytale skit, renowned storyteller, message from the state director of school counseling, and many more activities, focused on the importance of preparing students for post-secondary education and careers as the Niswonger Foundation hosted the Third Annual Northeast Tennessee Counselor Convening.  This year’s Convening was held at Northeast State Community College, on Monday, June 27. 

The counselors, in attendance, represented seventeen school systems, two community colleges and five four-year colleges and universities in the Niswonger Foundation’s service region. These counselors serve the region’s students from kindergarten through college and university throughout Northeast Tennessee.

Niswonger Foundation President and CEO, Dr. Nancy Dishner, stated that “We know of no other Counselor Convening of this type in the nation.  The key ingredient is that we bring together advisors and counselors serving all students in the region from kindergarten through university – literally “crayons to careers.”  She further commented, “We are proud to sponsor an event where we can recognize the skills and commitment of such a dedicated group of professionals.”

Eric Waldo, Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative addressed a crowd of over one hundred school counselors.  Waldo’s message outlined Mrs. Obama’s commitment to ensure that all children have the opportunity to prepare for post-secondary education and successful careers.  He praised the gathering of counselors for their role in helping children Reach Higher to achieve their greatest potential. 

A highlight of the day’s agenda was a performance by the theatre department from Unicoi County High School.  Performing an original skit, with a fairytale theme, the group shared the importance of planning for post-secondary education. The skit was initially performed at UCHS as part of the 2016 College Signing Day event. 

Kim Weitkamp, noted storyteller and inspirational speaker, provided a keynote address.  Weitkamp taught the importance of sharing one’s personal story as a means to encourage and motivate young people.  She expressed that, through stories, a line of communication can more easily be opened with children. 

Director of School Counseling for the Tennessee Department of Education, Leigh Bagwell, provided the attendees with an overview of the State’s commitment for quality school counseling.  Dr. Susan Roach, Tennessee School Counselor of the Year, addressed the group.  Dr. Roach was recognized for her service to Northeast Tennessee as a counselor at Jefferson County High School. 

Denise Arnold, Niswonger Foundation Director of College and Career Advising, served as master of ceremonies for the day’s event.  The Niswonger Foundation’s College and Career Advising program – NiswongerCARE – provides a staff of eighteen individuals who assist the 31 high schools in Northeast Tennessee with college and career advising services.  This program is in partnership with the Care Foundation of America. 

Speaking of the value of the event, Denise Arnold stated: “As a school counselor for over twenty years, I greatly value the importance of providing effective professional development for our region’s counselors and advisors. This is gratifying to hear their comments about the importance of this annual convening.”

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