CCSD Names 2022 Counselor of the Year!
River Ridge High School counselor Kati Kong is surprised with the news that she has been named the CCSD Counselor of the Year for 2022.
NOTE: More photos from today's surprise presentation are in a gallery online here.
River Ridge High School counselor Kati Kong says, in many ways, she sees herself as a Band-Aid.
An experienced counselor with a master’s degree in her field, Ms. Kong for 16 years has helped hold students together during their most challenging moments.
“I help hold the child together long enough for them to get more extensive and long-term help,” she said. “I put it on myself to ensure these families receive the mental health support they need because it is not an easy process … and mental health is not getting better anytime soon. Each day I come to work I am determined to make someone’s life a little better.”
Ms. Kong believes “consistent love, compassion and resilience are what make every high school counselor stand out as being worthy of recognition.”
Today, Ms. Kong was surprised with that recognition for her own dedication to her profession and her care for each of the students she serves.
Ms. Kong earlier this year was selected by colleagues as the River Ridge Innovation Zone’s Counselor of the Year in recognition of her outstanding service, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower surprised her today with the honor that she’s the Cherokee County School District 2022 Counselor of the Year! Ms. Kong now advances to the statewide Counselor of the Year competition.
“Kati exemplifies #CCSDcares in all that she does each day,” Dr. Hightower said. “The School Board joins me in thanking Kati for her exceptional service and congratulating her on this well-earned honor. Kati has earned high praise from her students, their families and her colleagues for the grace, empathy and love she shows them all, even in stressful situations. She has saved students’ lives. She has mentored her colleagues. She has inspired her community, and she inspires me.”
Credit Union of Georgia, a CCSD Partner, sponsored gifts including an iPad and an engraved plaque for Ms. Kong that were presented by Cherokee Area Manager Jason Blakey, as well as a $50 gift card for her and each of the Innovation Zone Counselors of the Year. Chief Operations Officer Dr. Debra Murdock, Student Services Director Dr. Ben Lester, River Ridge HS Principal Todd Miller and other CCSD and school staff joined in the presentation, as did Ms. Kong’s husband, their children and her parents.
“Kati has many strengths, but her main strength, from my observation, is her ability to relate to students and staff. Her ability to make people feel comfortable and safe has earned her the respect of many,” Principal Miller said. “Being a guidance counselor today is one of the most difficult jobs in the high school setting. Kati embraces not only her required tasks and role, but goes above and beyond to serve all students, especially those in crisis. She is most deserving of the CCSD Counselor of the Year Award.”
Ms. Kong joined the staff at River Ridge HS in 2018 after a successful tenure in Henry County Schools, where she worked as a counselor at the elementary and high school levels. She earned her bachelor of science degree in psychology and her master of education degree in guidance and counseling and completed her counselor internship at the middle school level.
In her role, Ms. Kong not only provides guidance counselor services to individual students, including academic, social, emotional and career counseling, she also oversees various school programs, such as coordinating the school’s dual enrollment and college admissions speakers, college field trips, distribution of scholarship information, and Georgia Governor’s Honors Program nominations.
Her greatest accomplishment as a counselor, according to both Ms. Kong and her peers, has been her work to support students in crisis, including helping students and families connect with mental health support outside of school.
As one parent shared, when her child began experiencing mental health issues, it was Ms. Kong who was his “safe haven.”
“She was there for him when he was feeling overwhelmed and provided him the peace of mind to just attend school,” the mom said. “I am happy to know there are employees and educators who are devoted to my child’s welfare. I really appreciate her devotion.”
The award process begins with each Innovation Zone (high school and feeder elementary and middle schools) selecting a Counselor of the Year. Applications from these honorees then are considered by a panel of retired educators and community leaders, who select the CCSD Counselor of the Year.
In addition to Ms. Kong for the River Ridge Innovation Zone (IZ), the other Zone winners are (click the links to read more about them): Cherokee IZ, Leontta Warren of Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy; Creekview IZ, Angel Jane of Avery ES; Etowah IZ, Jill Cole of Clark Creek ES STEM Academy; Sequoyah IZ, Tina Rogers of Mountain Road ES; and Woodstock IZ, Elizabeth Ray of Carmel ES.
Celebrating the presentation of the CCSD Counselor of the Year Award are, from left, CCSD Chief Operations Officer Dr. Debra Murdock, Student Services Director Dr. Ben Lester, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Credit Union of Georgia Cherokee Area Manager Jason Blakey, CCSD Counselor of the Year Kati Kong of River Ridge HS, her parents, Pam and Sam Johnson; her husband, Billy Kong; Principal Todd Miller; and her children, Carlie and Ronin Kong.