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Brownell counselor honored for her dedication

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 11, 2019

 Norman Hurns, of the Michigan School Counselor Association Board of Directors, left, congratulates Brownell Middle School counselor Angie Niforos with the School Counselor of the Year award.

Norman Hurns, of the Michigan School Counselor Association Board of Directors, left, congratulates Brownell Middle School counselor Angie Niforos with the School Counselor of the Year award.

Photo provided by Angie Niforos

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — For many students, middle school is the most challenging time.

“There’s a whole lot of physical changes happening in a short period of time, social and peer relationships change, and the expectations and demands of academics grow as you’re going into high school,” Brownell Middle School counselor Angie Niforos said. “After that, the real world is upon them. It’s quite a fast journey.”

School counselors like Niforos help students navigate those awkward middle school years, and others have recognized Niforos for her dedication to the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at the school.

The Michigan School Counselor Association recently presented Niforos with the School Counselor of the Year award. The award honors professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation’s students and addressing their academic and social/emotional development and college and career readiness.

“I feel very honored,” Niforos said. “I’m beyond overwhelmed. School counselors are important. There is a need for us out there; more so now with what kids need.”

The Michigan School Counselor Association was chartered in 1964 as a state division of the American School Counselor Association. The Michigan School Counselor Association has developed programs with the objective of providing the most current professional development and assistance to Michigan school counselors.

The School Counselor of the Year finalists were judged on creative school counseling innovations, effective school counseling programs, leadership skills and contributions to student advancement. Niforos, along with other state School Counselor of the Year winners, will be evaluated for National School Counselor of the Year. Educators in the Grosse Pointe Public School System were pleased to hear of Niforos’ award.

“Dr. Niforos is the consummate professional. On a daily basis she displays tremendous preparedness, knowledge and understanding of students’ individual needs, as well as, the expertise to bring educators together to develop educational plans,” Brownell Middle School Principal Richard Hunwick said in a prepared statement. “She does not shy away from trying new strategies and methods of counseling which provides students with fresh and engaging social and emotional learning opportunities. In the last couple years she has taken part in mindfulness and restorative practice seminars while completing her Ph.D. in counseling. Needless to write, Angie’s passion for her own professional development is second to none.”

Niforos has a Bachelor of Arts in education from the University of Michigan; a Master of Arts in educational psychology from U of M; a Master of Arts in guidance and counseling from Eastern Michigan University; an education specialist, or Ed.S., from Eastern; and a doctorate in counseling from Oakland University.

Niforos was a counselor at Pierce Middle School in the GPPSS from August 1999 to January 2009 before moving to Brownell. She has been the middle school counseling department chair for the GPPSS since September 2012. She and the GPPSS counselors wear several hats each day for their students.

“The biggest piece is providing social and emotional support. We give support for day-to-day crisis, family situations, depression, ADHD and anxiety. We monitor academic performance and provide intervention for struggling students,” Niforos said. “We monitor student progress for struggling and successful students. There’s a lot of collaboration with the staff. You connect with the teachers, and there’s a lot of teamwork involved. We plan each year and help students transition from fifth grade to sixth grade and from eighth grade to the high school. The goal is to help students so it’s not so difficult.”

Another problem facing students is how social media affects them both inside and outside the classroom.

“It’s a major factor,” Niforos said. “The situations on social media filter into school.”

Niforos has some tips for parents when it comes to social media, using the internet and their children.

“Talk about safety and use of time. Help them create a balance in their life so they’re not so dependant on it,” she said.

She also recommends that parents encourage their children to become involved in activities away from computers. It’s also good to make friends face-to-face rather than via social media.

Niforos also sees positive attributes in the students. She sees students helping each other out in different ways.

“I do see a lot of kindness to one another,” the Brownell staff member said. “I see students being more self-aware. I see kids wanting to do well academically.”

One way Niforos and staff reached out to the students this year was by holding a career day in March. The event gave the students a chance to find out about possible careers and plan for college. WXYZ Channel 7 investigative reporter Heather Catallo was the guest speaker. Niforos said 30 professionals were brought in to meet with students.

“They had a chance to go to different sessions, and all the speakers spoke about their careers,” Niforos said. “It was great exposure for the kids. Students got a feel for what their strengths are. We were really thrilled with the outcome for the kids, and the speakers want to return.”

A second career day is planned for the 2020-21 school year.

Niforos said the students are interested in a variety of careers, including professional athletics, medicine, law, performing arts and graphic design. Niforos, who described herself as a “lifelong learner,” always wanted to be in education and gravitated toward counseling others.

“I enjoyed helping people with problem-solving,” said Niforos, who received a Distinguished Employee Award for GPPSS in November 2016.