Waianae High School Counselor Desiré DeSoto was named the 2018 Hawaii School Counselor of the Year and was selected as one of six finalists nationwide for the 2019 American School Counselor of the Year recognition.
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. Finalists were judged based on their ability to create systemic change within the school counseling profession.
DeSoto, along with the five other School Counselor of the Year finalists, will be in Washington, D.C., January 30–February 1, 2019 where they will participate in a congressional briefing, meet with their members of Congress and attend a School Counselor of the Year Gala.
"We would like to congratulate Desiré on being selected by the American School Counselor Association for this honor," said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. "Through her efforts at Waianae High School and in the community, she has helped to advance school counseling and maximize the educational, academic, career and social development of her students."
DeSoto has been at Waianae High School since 1996, serving as a school counselor for 12 years. She is a 2015-2016 First Nations’ Futures Fellow and a graduate of Whitworth University, Chaminade University and Walden University.
A native of Mākaha, DeSoto has remained dedicated to supporting the unique challenges faced by the families in the community where she was born and raised. Wai'anae High School vice principal Ryan Oshita, describes DeSoto as a champion for the fight for educational equity and opportunities for minorities, economically disadvantaged, first generation, special education and Native Hawaiian students.
DeSoto’s determination to help students envision their postsecondary future lead her to spearhead an important college-going partnership. As an alumna of Whitworth College, she had a critical role in forming Wai’anae to Whitworth ʻAuwai, a community partnership with Kamehameha Schools that provides the opportunity for 17 local high school students to attend Whitworth University on full scholarships including room and board, books, tuition and two round trip flights to and from Whitworth each school year.
"The most rewarding part of my work is bearing witness to the growth, development, and maturation of my students," said DeSoto. "There are no words to describe the feeling of witnessing students overcome obstacles and fulfill their post-high school goals and dreams.”
As of this year, all Nanakuli-Waianae complex area schools have received their Recognized American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Model Program (RAMP) designation. The strong cadre of student support teams and school counselors, like DeSoto, within the complex area have influenced a dramatic decrease in student suspensions and incident referrals, thus dramatically changing the culture of the schools within the community.
“The School Counselor of the Year award is an esteemed recognition for our profession,” said Richard Wong, Ed.D., ASCA executive director. “School counselors make significant contributions to the overall well‐being of students and their success. Their unique qualifications and training allow them to support students’ academic achievement, career development and social/emotional needs. This award highlights their commitment, dedication and excellence.”
ASCA is celebrating 2019 National School Counseling Week from February 4-8. The goal of the week is to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems. For more information about ASCA, click here, and for information about HSCA, click here.