The 2021 Counselors That Change Lives Awards

Southwestern University graduation photos 2019

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 change lives.

Since 2009, we have recognized the tireless work of individuals who counsel students in the college search process with this award, and we offer our sincere congratulations to this year’s recipients!

Emily Coffey — Mount St. Mary Academy (AR)
Emily Coffey knows the liberal arts experience. As a Hendrix College student, she lived it, and as a young professional, she shared it with prospective students while working in the admission office. Now, as a college counselor, she can share insight on those great opportunities with her students on a daily basis. Working with students to expand their college options, Emily “gently pushes her students to thoughtfully reflect on their time at Mount St. Mary’s. This self-reflection often leads to conversations about what they have benefited from during their time in high school and where they have found the most success.” Emily’s work with students not only helps them find a college but also helps them see the many paths to a fulfilling life.

Cole Conners — Lakeside High School (GA)
As an advocate for his students, Cole Conners quizzes the reps he meets about the supports his students might need. He knows his 200+ students well and guides them to consider schools that will challenge and support them, helping them find community and mentoring. “Cole is a major advocate of first generation college students. Each year, he has played a vital role in organizing Lakeside’s ‘Apply to College Day.’ During the programming, admission representatives and college counselors are available in the library to actively work with students to complete college applications and FAFSAs.” We call this kind of work life-changing.

Allie Cooper — Breakthrough Santa Fe (NM)
Understanding students’ needs in the admission process takes many forms. Allie Cooper from BreakThrough Santa Fe worked with one of our other 2021 award recipients, Sam Ritter, to bring a Case Study program to their students. Then they went a step further and found Spanish-speaking college reps to make the program accessible to more parents and guardians. Allie’s work with first-generation, often underrepresented students has increased participation in BreakThrough Santa Fe’s six-year advising program, giving more students the chance to learn about liberal arts colleges. “Her work around fundraising, community support, case studies, and parental involvement is instrumental in helping these students see college opportunities in and beyond New Mexico!”

DeEnna Holohan — Notre Dame High School (CA)
With DeEnna Holohan, students at Notre Dame High School have an active advocate who goes well beyond the fundamentals in college counseling. “She is a passionate representative of CTCL and performs in her role with grace, diligence and a wonderful sense of humor—always with a beaming smile.” DeEnna knows her students “on a deeply personal and individual level” and is always willing to advocate for schools of best fit. She meets with every rep that visits, in-person prior to COVID and online in today’s challenging pandemic. Her knowledge of schools’ offerings allows her to help students build college lists that make sense and can make a significant difference in their college career and beyond

Nicholas Howell — Pflugerville High School (TX)
Working at a large public high school, Nick Howell is full of energy and ready to serve. He goes above and beyond, staying after that last bell as long as necessary to ensure that his first-generation, low-income students are aware of the possibilities that await them after high school. Need a ride to your SAT test? Nick is there. Need a quiet space to complete that application form? His door is open. Not sure what it’s like to go to college? He is ready and willing to answer all the questions students and their families/guardians might have. Nick does it all. In the summer of 2020, he took his summer “boot camp” program online and generously shared that format with other counselors in his part of Texas. Big state, big heart: Nick Howell is a class-act in college counseling.

Victoria MonroeVictoria Monroe — Mechanicsburg High School (OH)
Sometimes it takes an extra step to engage students. Victoria Monroe goes that extra step. When college reps visited Mechanicsburg High School via Zoom, she recorded mini-info sessions with the reps during those meetings. Then Victoria produced interactive posters for each college, complete with facts, financial aid information, and links to the colleges’ videos and websites. She encourages students not only to look beyond rankings and ratings—and their own comfort zones—to find the best-fit colleges, but also to start early. Those mini-info sessions are shared with the whole MHS community, which reflects the scope of Victoria’s role as the only counselor for 9-12 students.

Lisa Pederson — Mounds Park Academy (MN)
Qualitative and quantitative data: Both are tools in Lisa Pederson’s counseling toolbox. She “encourages students to think outside of the rankings by providing them with data that is backed with individual experiences from previous students or from her own research.” And, while she is sharing the hard data, Lisa is spending time getting to know her students’ interests, challenges, hopes, and dreams so she can help build an exceptionally personalized college list. Working with the college reps to understand their schools, Lisa’s counseling reflects here in-depth knowledge base and sincere hope for her students’ futures.

Morgan Phillips — St. Mary’s School (NC)
While her full-time counseling position at St. Mary’s School keeps her busy and challenged, Morgan Phillips also works with students in the area through a scholarship program called A Simple Gift. Working with students who have vastly different backgrounds hones Morgan’s counseling skills, and she makes a difference—changes lives, shall we say—every day by keeping all students’ best interest at the heart of her work. Giving students insight into potentially new and different paths is important work, and Morgan is leading the way in North Carolina.

Sam Ritter — Davis New Mexico Scholarship (NM)
Sam Ritter is the first award recipient jointly nominated in the same year by two CTCL-member schools. His work at the Davis New Mexico Scholarship gives him special insight into the needs of first-generation, BIPOC students who have great talents and a lot to offer colleges but need that extra encouragement to see themselves on that path. With a mission to ensure students find the right fit for their educational opportunities, Sam guides families through every step of the application process, helping them navigate the unique hiccups that they may experience throughout college. “With tips, workshops, and advice along the way, he has designed a program that empowers students to apply to college, even if they don’t win the scholarship.”

Darryl Tiggle — Friends School of Baltimore (MD)
Darryl Tiggle knows that education is not meant to perpetuate a system and society but rather is meant to be transformative, both on a personal level for a student and on a societal level as well. His work aligns beautifully with CTCL’s hope that each student will find a next-step that fulfills and changes them for the better. “Darryl is always ready to talk one-on-one with a student to get to know them—not just their academic and extra-curricular history but truly who they are, what they care about, what they dream about, who inspires them, and who they want to become and be one day.” We would all love to have a Darryl Tiggle in our corner as we make big decisions.

Elena Walsh — Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove (MD)
As a teacher and the only counselor for students in 9-12, Elena Walsh is a busy person. However, she ensures that those busy days include plenty of time to individually counsel students towards life after graduation. “Elena focuses on establishing relationships, emphasizing that students need to invest in themselves and become their own advocates now in order to be successful in life.” She stays in contact with her graduates and shares their positive experiences with current students to reinforce this message of ‘fit’. College advising, life advising—they are all part of the package that Elena offers to the students at her large, urban, public high school.

Matt Ybarra — Santa Fe Preparatory School (NM)
Matt Ybarra “represents the very best of our college counseling world and does so with enthusiasm, professionalism, and, most importantly, with incredible heart.” Counseling students to consider schools where they will thrive, Matt asks students think beyond the known and to see themselves as ready for the adventure of college. His work “always goes above and beyond” for students, sharing his knowledge and experience not only with his official counseling load but also by collaborating with CBO leaders to support even more students in Santa Fe.