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Kelly Elementary designated as RAMP School of Distinction

Ginny Blake, counselor at J. Nelson Kelly Elementary School, reacts to the sign displaying the school's RAMP designation at the American School Counselor Association annual conference in Denver. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Kelly Elementary School Counselor Ginny Blake (center) and Principal Mike LaMoine, pose with Mark Kuranz, director of professional development with the American School Counselor Association, at an awards dinner Monday in Denver. J. Nelson Kelly Elementary received the RAMP School of Distinction award for its counseling program. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

J. Nelson Kelly Elementary School in Grand Forks is one of six schools in the country to be recognized as a "2017 RAMP School with Distinction."

RAMP stands for "Recognized American School Counselor Association Model Program."

Kelly is one of 104 schools in 27 states to receive the designation this year. Six of those 104 received the "with Distinction" recognition.

At an awards ceremony Monday in Denver, those schools were recognized as "Best of the Best for 2017," said Ginny Blake, counselor at Kelly Elementary. "We were so excited to be chosen as one of the six schools."

In North Dakota, only one other school, Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, has received the RAMP designation.

Receiving the award is "a historic event for Grand Forks Public Schools," Jody Thompson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said in a news release. "It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our schools' counselors to meet high national standards."

Mike LaMoine, principal at Kelly, said, "To get the RAMP award is phenomenal, but to receive the award with distinction is something extremely special."

"At Kelly, (Blake's) work is what and who we are. It's really what our teachers, students and families do each and every day."

LaMoine said the award recognizes not only Blake's work but the work of all counselors in the district "because they work together collaboratively."

Grand Forks Public Schools employs 24 counselors for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

All are working toward meeting the goals of the ASCA national model program, which includes measuring results in students' academic achievement, behavior and attendance, Blake said.

"We look at school data ... and ask how can we best support kids? Where are the areas where kids can use more support?"

"We are working on a comprehensive program," she said. "All of us are working on the same things, but the data at different schools might be different."

They look at evidence of attitudes and beliefs, motivation, knowledge in academic areas and skills, she said, and determine how, as counselors, they can help students improve.

"We have many interventions for the academic piece," she said. "I've been looking at the perception piece—what (students) believe. I've really noticed that perception can be changed."

For example, Blake is involved with helping students learn how to behave.

"We have expectations for 13 settings," including the classroom, lunchroom, playground, library and school assemblies, she said.

As the model program is put into practice, the school environment "may feel different, that things are better, but how can we tell it's better. With this data, now we can actually see how it's different. It's very exciting work."

The data counselors gather and analyze help them understand "what are we seeing and where do we put our time, how do we put our time where it really matters?" Blake said.

Students today can benefit from learning coping skills and knowing "how to handle stresses because they have so many stresses," she said.

Blake is seeing "overall, more anxiety, depression trends; I've seen that for quite a few years."

With coping skills taught in elementary grades, students "could do better in middle and high school," she said.

Employed as a counselor at Kelly since 1989, Blake said, "You can't do this by yourself. You have to have the support of the staff, principals and families."

She cited the extraordinary support she's received from Principal LaMoine, who encouraged her to apply for the RAMP award, and Assistant Superintendent Thompson.

"I've never been into awards, because they come and go," Blake said. "But, after being in this (field) many years, this one is different. It validates what I get up and do every day."