WASHINGTON >> When Michelle Obama helps recognize the school counselor of the year later this week, it will also mark her final White House event as first lady, aides said Tuesday.
Mrs. Obama has presided over a White House ceremony each January since 2015 honoring school counselors, who she says are often the “deciding factor” in whether a student attends college. She joked last year that Friday’s ceremony might be one of the last White House events “before they kick us out in January of 2017.”
President Barack Obama’s term ends at noon on Jan. 20, exactly two weeks after Friday’s ceremony.
School counselors from across the country are meeting at the White House at the end of the week to be recognized and to help honor Terri Tchorzynski, the 2017 School Counselor of the Year. She is a counselor at the Calhoun Area Career Center in Battle Creek, Michigan, according to the website of the American School Counselor Association.
Before Mrs. Obama’s remarks at Friday’s event, guests will attend a panel discussion featuring Education Secretary John B. King Jr., former Education Secretary Arne Duncan and actress Connie Britton, who played a high school guidance counselor on the network television series “Friday Night Lights,” among other participants, the White House said.
Mrs. Obama established the recognition ceremony for school counselors to highlight the work they do with young people and the conditions under which they operate.
The average counselor is responsible for more than 470 students, said Eric Waldo, executive director of Reach Higher, Mrs. Obama’s initiative to encourage students to continue their education after high school. Recognition for school counselors is part of that initiative.
Mrs. Obama also modeled the school counselor ceremony after the annual Teacher of the Year event that’s been held at the White House for decades. She hopes future presidents will continue to recognize the contributions of school counselors.
“Much like Teacher of the Year has become a 50-year tradition for the White House, regardless of party, we certainly think counselors are deserving of the same accolades,” said Tina Tchen, the first lady’s chief of staff.