BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University alumna Meredith Lindsey Draughn ’15 is the 2023 National School Counselor of the Year — giving her the opportunity to spotlight the school counseling profession and the school counselors who support K–12 students every day.
The role includes recognition and advocacy work in Washington, D.C., this month as well as participation in webinars and additional online events during National School Counseling Week Feb. 6–10.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) announced Draughn as the 2023 School Counselor of the Year on Nov. 18, 2022. In 2021, the North Carolina School Counselor Association (NCSCA) named Draughn the state’s School Counselor of the Year. Draughn is the first counselor from North Carolina to receive the national recognition, NCSCA reported.
Draughn completed her Master of Arts in professional school counseling through App State’s Reich College of Education.
“It is an incredible honor to get the opportunity to represent school counselors on a national level,” Draughn said. “School counselors are truly changing lives each and every day, and I hope to shine a spotlight on the work that my colleagues are doing over the next year.”
Jill Cook, ASCA executive director, said, “School counselors are vital to students’ academic achievement, social/emotional development and plans for life after graduation. The 2023 finalists have demonstrated their commitment to the values and mission of the profession to help all students succeed.”
Impacting education in her community
Draughn serves as the school counselor at B. Everett Jordan Elementary School in Graham — a Recognized ASCA Model Program school that serves 355 students in grades K–5.
“As the daughter of a school counselor and someone who is lucky enough to work with incredible colleagues, I have witnessed the positive and life-changing impact that school counselors have on school communities my entire life,” Draughn said.
Upon returning to in-person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic, many students at the school were struggling, and some more than others, Draughn said. “We were all in the same storm, but we were certainly not all in the same boat,” she added.
To support students’ needs, Draughn worked with Elon University to become part of the “It Takes a Village” project. The university sends college students to Alamance County elementary schools to work with students after school on targeted educational concepts. Draughn helps facilitate weekly tutoring for the more than 10% of students “who have the potential for growth but likely do not meet the criteria for intervention services during the school day,” she said. In 2021–22, more than 97% of students who participated in the program showed or exceeded growth on end-of-year assessments.
“While it is clear that Ms. Draughn is well versed in school counseling skills and programmatic structures, her true value lies in how she uses those strengths to enhance our community as a whole,” said Terri H. Drummond, the school’s principal. “Although it can be easy to forget about B. Everett Jordan — a small, rural, Title 1 school in a mid-sized district — Ms. Draughn views every day and every action, no matter how small, as an opportunity to make a difference.”
Mentoring the next generation of school counselors
Draughn regularly returns to App State to share her time and expertise with the next generation of school counselors.
“Gaining my master’s degree from Appalachian State University was truly a catalyst in my education and professional career,” said Draughn. “Learning from former school counselors who had really walked the walk was invaluable and created lifelong mentors and colleagues to call in both the tough times when you need consultation and the best of times to add to your celebration.”
Dr. Jill Weidknecht Van Horne, associate professor and director of the professional school counseling program, emphasizes the importance of the practitioner-focused approach of the program and the multiple opportunities to work with counselors both in an educational setting and in the classroom.
“Meredith was one of my first students when I began teaching at App State,” said Weidknecht Van Horne. “I am grateful to have alumni like her who continue to mentor our students both individually and at the group level.”
Graduate student Lilly Virginia ’22, from Haw River, had the opportunity to shadow Draughn in the school she had attended growing up.
“After seeing Meredith’s data collection and organization, it is clear why she was chosen to be the National School Counselor of the Year,” noted Virginia. “It was amazing watching Meredith collaborate with students and staff alike, as collaboration is one of the most important jobs for school counselors.”
Draughn completed her Bachelor of Science in health and exercise science from Wake Forest University. Additionally, she is:
- a National Board Certified School Counselor;
- an ASCA U School Counseling Leadership Specialist;
- a Mental Health Specialist;
- an Anxiety and Stress Management Specialist;
- a Cultural Competency Specialist; and
- a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Specialist.
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About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian State University offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls more than 2,000 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.