Four schools to begin school year with counseling distinction

The support Gwinnett County Public Schools counselors provide to their students every day recently brought national distinction to four Gwinnett schools.

The American School Counselor Association recognized the counselors at these schools with the Recognized ASCA Model Program Designation. The RAMP designation, awarded to schools that are aligned with the criteria set in the ASCA National Model, recognizes schools that are committed to delivering a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program and an exemplary educational environment.

The four Gwinnett schools honored as Recognized ASCA Model Program Designees and their counselors are:

* Benefield Elementary: Teshia Dula and Tracie Sharpe

* White Oak Elementary: Jennifer Diaz

* Creekland Middle: Stephanie Bentley, Maria Grovner, Julie Taylor and Carla Winkler

* Peachtree Ridge High: Sarah Belknap, Dolly Glisson, Nikita Johnson, Keisha Rogers, Sylvia Rowe, Donna Thomas and Abbey Youngblood

These Gwinnett schools join a select group of other schools from across the country that have received the national recognition since the program's inception in 2004.

In Gwinnett, 14 GCPS schools have now been recognized with the RAMP Designation, which is valid for three years. These schools include Annistown Elementary, Berkeley Lake Elementary, Bethesda Elementary, Grayson Elementary, Magill Elementary, Mason Elementary, Jones Middle, Radloff Middle and Collins Hill High. Peachtree Elementary, the first Gwinnett school to earn this national designation, was recently recertified.

Cisco supports Gwinnett schools' educational excellence

Supporting the Gwinnett County Board of Education's belief that all students can learn, the Cisco Foundation recently gave a $50,000 grant to the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation Fund in support of programs that address performance gaps between different groups of students.

"Cisco Systems is actively involved in promoting quality of life and business issues affecting the region," says Renee Byrd-Lewis, director of Cisco community relations. "Support for competence in reading, mathematics and science is vital to our shared success as a community and as a global partner."

The Cisco Foundation grant will support districtwide goals to increase the percentage of students achieving in the exceeds category on the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests in reading and mathematics, which are required for Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by federal and state standards. The grant also will support AYP subgroups of students with disabilities and English language learners.

In addition, the grant will assist science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives that promote an increase in student performance.

Gwinnett County Public Schools was the winner of the 2010 Broad Prize which is awarded each year to honor urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among low-income and minority students.

Four graduates receive scholarships as National Merit winners

Four recent Gwinnett County Public Schools graduates will start their higher education plans this fall with additional financial assistance as National Merit College-Sponsored Scholarship winners.

The four graduates -- from Dacula High, Duluth High, Norcross High and Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology -- join other Gwinnett students who were named recipients of college-sponsored scholarships earlier this spring.

The latest winners from Gwinnett are:

* Laura E. Hooper of Norcross High

National Merit Baylor University Scholarship

* Melinda K. Johnson of Dacula High

National Merit University of Georgia Scholarship

* Calvin Q. Li of Duluth High

National Merit Emory University Scholarship

* Nikhil Ramesh of Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology

National Merit Georgia Tech Scholarship

These graduates are part of a group of 1,700 additional student winners nationwide who have earned the honor based on their high school academic performance. They each have earned a scholarship worth between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

Each sponsoring college or university selected its scholarship winner from among the finalists in the 2011 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution. Close to 200 higher education institutions sponsored scholarships through this program this year.

Heather Darenberg writes about education. Good News From Schools appears in the Sunday edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post.