"She projects an aura of quiet dignity and is noted for her compassion and dedication to her students."

St. Amant Middle School (SAMS) Counselor Candace Sharper was named the Louisiana School Counselor Association Middle School Counselor of the Year at the 2019 Louisiana Counseling Association (LCA) Annual Conference in New Orleans.

"Candace is the epitome of a great counselor. She is energetic, personable, professional, and innovative. She projects an aura of quiet dignity and is noted for her compassion and dedication to her students," said Supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance Linda Honey. "As a counselor leader, she has developed a distinct rapport with other counselors and is perceived by many to be unbiased, friendly and open to assisting others. Candace has remained steadfast and committed to meeting the challenges of the counseling profession. In so doing, she has  demonstrated through all endeavors that she is truly deserving of this honor."

Sharper is President of the Ascension Parish School Counseling Association and teaches a student leadership group at SAMS. With the help of her student leadership group, she also runs an initiative called "The Wildcat Way," a school-wide character education program that informs students about character traits that, if encompassed by all students, help to create a safe, caring and inclusive school environment. She and the class put on weekly celebrations highlighting a focus trait and produce videos for each trait that go out to all of the students. Besides that, she meets with students and parents daily, helps with enrollment and scheduling and acts as the testing coordinator. Out of everything she does, Sharper says her favorite thing about her job is "getting the hugs in the hallway."

"When I found out I was nominated, I saw it as an opportunity to highlight the impact the Ascension Parish School Counselors are making in the communities we serve," said Sharper. She started working at St. Amant Middle in 2013 after previously serving as a counselor at Louisiana State University (LSU). As a college counselor, she saw an abundance of cases where students were unprepared and unaware of what they wanted to do. She felt that if she could make a difference before the college level and have those critical conversations early on, she could make a greater impact on the future of the students, thus drawing her to middle school counseling. 

Sharper is a licensed professional counselor, a national board certified counselor and a national certified school counselor. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from LSU and a master's degree in community mental health. After deciding she wanted to work in a school, she went back to school to earn a specialist's degree in school counseling.

One of Sharper's main points in her submission for the award was the advocation for school counselors all over the state to have the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive as the needs of students are changing. "School counselors in Ascension Parish are becoming more proactive and more data-driven and we have comprehensive counseling programs that reach ALL students. As we strive to align with our national model under the American School Counseling Association, I believe it is an accomplishment worth acknowledging. I am proud to be recognized as a torch bearer for that effort!"

For more information about The Louisiana Counseling Association, visit lacounseling.org. More information about Ascension Public Schools can be found at www.apsb.org.

Contributed by APS intern Caitlyn Little