The 2016 Counselors That Change Lives Awards

The “Counselors That Change Lives” award recognizes those whose dedication to the college counseling profession reflects the CTCL ideals. By helping students frame their search beyond the ratings and rankings to find a college that provides the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life, these counselors are changing lives.

Their tireless work does not go unrecognized, and this award is our way of acknowledging all that they do to help students and families in the college search process. Congratulations to all the selectees.

Maria Cortes – Nicholas Academic Center, CA
Dauntless!” and “relentless in pushing students to achieve the very best” is how the nomination describes Maria Cortes.

“While Maria Cortes may seem somewhat soft-spoken, shy and reserved on the surface, her commitment to student success is anything but. I have witnessed firsthand how bold she can be when advocating for students and ensuring they have everything they need to finish a task … whether it’s working with a student until late into the night to complete the Common Application, or translating complex procedures for families into Spanish, Maria does whatever is needed (and more) to support her students.”

Maria’s willingness to put in whatever work is necessary – not to mention kind words of support and encouragement – is changing the lives of those that she touches, which includes admission officers as well as students and their families.


Dan Crabtree – Wheaton Academy, IL
Dan Crabtree has dedicated his life to helping students determine the appropriate ‘next step,'” writes the nominator. In various roles, including the last 16 years as a college counselor, Dan has encouraged all students and their parents to begin their college search with the foundational principle of finding a good college fit.

“By encouraging students not to simply follow their peers but to follow their hearts and the call on their life, Dan truly has been a servant leader and a counselor that has changed lives throughout his career.”


Emma Huelskoetter – Davidson College Advising Corps at Hunter Huss High School, NC
Emma brings an open mind and heart to her work with students who, given their socioeconomic status, might not otherwise receive individualized college counseling, according to the nomination.

“These are students who probably would not have access to such personalized attention, especially at the level Emma provides it. Recently she has helped both a first-generation college student and first-generation American citizen throughout the college admissions process. In one case, the student did not have home internet access, so Emma communicated regularly with the admission office to track down missing pieces of the application, the advising process and everything in between.”

Those who visit Hunter Huss High School are able to witness the close-knit relationships Emma develops with her students: they trust her to support their college search on their own terms. It’s easy to see how Emma goes above and beyond for her students, working with them to find their best fit. “As an admission professional who regularly works with many schools and college counselors, I have found that this is not always the case. It’s always a great pleasure to work with Emma.”


Lesley Klecan – St. Mary’s School, OR
St. Mary’s School is located in Medford, a relatively remote location approximately four hours from Oregon’s capital of Salem and five hours from Portland. “Because of this distance from major cities, it is hard to foster interaction among students and diverse colleges and universities,” explains the nominator. “And yet the list of colleges that St. Mary’s School students have attended fills almost an entire page of their school profile – big universities, small liberal arts colleges, in-state and out-of-state schools.”

“Lesley attains this breadth by starting with the core philosophy of fit. In fact, ‘fit’ is the first word on school’s College Corner website, and St. Mary’s students are encouraged to explore what fit means, starting as early as middle school.”

Because fewer colleges and universities are able to travel to St. Mary’s School, Lesley is dedicated to learning about the opportunities for her students, whether by traveling to Portland to attend a counselor breakfast or actively encouraging representatives to make the trip to Medford. “For representatives who are able to go the distance, Lesley provides different options for interacting with students – which the students actually do. Lesley has made it the cornerstone of her approach; consequently, her students are eager to explore this idea of fit.”


Karen Minvielle – Counterpane Montessori School, GA
According to the nomination, Karen creates an environment for students and parents to gradually become prepared for applying to colleges. From sponsoring a yearly college night for all upper-school families to making recommendations for campus visits to coordinate with families own travel plans, Karen gives students plenty of room for making these big decisions in their lives. At the same time, she provides full support to students to ensure avoiding big pitfalls.

“Year after year, Karen goes the extra mile and shows passion for her work. The result is that Counterpane students find programs that match their life goals.”


Joe Sailors – Campus High School, KS
“Joe is the epitome of the ideal high school counselor, and it is a true honor to be able to work with him,” states the nomination.

Located in Wichita, Campus High School is a 3-5 hour drive to Kansas City or Des Moines, respectively. Most students from the school would only look at large, in-state universities without Joe’s influence. “His goal is to show students that there are other options out there that do really different things – great things. Joe works to help them see all of the options available and then to help them find the best college or university for their future.”

For Joe, this might mean lending out his copy of Colleges That Change Lives; working late at night or over lunch; or driving a van full of students to eight hours in each direction to let them see a private college in Iowa for themselves. It also means that when Joe talks to admission officers he can offer great insight about his students: he knows them all by name, what majors interest them, the topics of their IB diploma papers and, usually, a funny story involving each of them.

“I have not met another counselor who believes in his students more than Joe. Because of this, his students respect him and you can tell that they see the hard work he puts in for them – to give them these opportunities to go anywhere they want.”


Paula Steiner, Prairie Ridge High School, IL
When you visit Prairie Ridge High School, Paula goes out of her way to make the visit worthwhile for the students and the visiting counselor,” states the nomination.

It also is clear when you visit the office that she has created a comfortable atmosphere that invites students to frequent it and utilize her expertise as well as the many resources available there. “Each time I visit there are students popping in and out to say hello or to check on ‘this’ or follow up about ‘that.'”

Paula wears many hats and seems to do with ease, always putting the student first. “I appreciate the individualism she recognizes in each school and often benefit from the feedback that results from her questions. Her commitment to her students and the school as a whole is impressive and genuine. She is a tremendous asset to Prairie Ridge and all who have a chance to work with her!”


Anna Takahashi, Eastside College Preparatory School, CA
Eastside College Prep serves students who are historically underrepresented in higher education. As the Director of College Counseling, Anna’s presence is invaluable to the community around her, according to the nomination. “It is apparent that Anna knows her students well – their strengths, their challenges and their triumphs – and is their tireless advocate as they pursue the college that best fits them. The students respect and admire her as well.”

During the Bay Area Case Studies week each spring, Eastside students stand out: they have read the case studies, know how to discuss the applicants and speak their minds respectfully and clearly. “Their preparation and professional demeanor is a direct reflection of Anna’s great work with them.”

Anna is warm and easy-going, yet passionate about her school and her students. “She embodies the ideals of the CTCL mission and is a most deserving Counselor that Changes Lives.”