School of Education alumna School Counselor of the Year finalist

Cassie Poncelow school counselorCounseling and Career Development graduate Cassie Poncelow, a school counselor at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, Colo., has been named a 2018 School Counselor of the Year finalist by the American School Counselor Association. Poncelow, an alumna of the master’s degree specialization through Colorado State University’s School of Education, has been a school counselor for seven years and has been at Poudre High School since 2013.

The School Counselor of the Year award honors professionals who devote their careers to advocating for the nation’s students and addressing their academic and social/emotional development and college and career readiness needs.

Going above and beyond

Assistant Principal Kelby Benedict says Poncelow went above and beyond when she helped spearhead Poudre High School’s Opportunities Unlimited, a dropout recovery program developed to attract students back to public education so they can complete their high school diploma or GED exam. Poncelow’s frustration with the lack of alternative high school options available in Fort Collins led her to work with Poudre administrators to create the program.

“Students were given a second chance at a high school diploma while taking college courses because of the vision and innovation that Cassie had,” Benedict said. “These students found a home in an educational community, something they had not been able to find previously.”

Poncelow understands different people need to be reached out to in different ways, says Poudre High senior Grace Litts. After a series of tragedies affected schools in the Fort Collins area, Poncelow and Poudre’s counseling team organized events to help students and staff manage their emotions.

Mental Health Matters

Mental Health Matters, an evening event featuring 30 sessions led by community mental health professionals, focused on topics such as stress management, LGBTQ support, depression and anxiety, social media, self-harm and eating disorders. The event attracted more than 400 attendees from Fort Collins, Denver, Greeley and Boulder as well as several state legislators who support mental health funding.

“It was amazing. We were drowning in reviews and a pleased community because of Ms. Poncelow’s dedication to Mental Health Matters,” Litts says. “She put in so much hard work into creating this event.”

Six finalists were selected for School Counselor of the Year based on their ability to create systemic change within the profession through leadership, collaboration and advocacy. All six finalists achieved increased student success through their comprehensive school counseling programs.

Poncelow and the other finalists were honored at a ceremony and black-tie gala in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of February. A webcast of the event, with featured speaker Michelle Obama, is available for viewing here.

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.