The School Counselor Fan Club (#72)

There is an unrecognized group of students who truly admire their K-12 school counselors. Though you may not always realize they exist, this week’s guests reveal that many school counselors have their own secret fan clubs.

Inspiring School Counselors
The School Counselor Fan Club (#72)

This Week's Storytellers

Emily Caprioglio

Emily Caprioglio is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in Business Administration and two minors in Women & Gender Studies and Public Policy. She is a Kenan Scholar in the Kenan Flagler Business School which explores the intersection of private and public spheres.

Yonas Kemal

Yonas Kemal is also a student at Kenan Flagler Business School (KFBS) at UNC Chapel Hill. As a first-generation college Ethiopian-American, he is the first in his family to attend college and is working to make a name for himself. Whether it be through his work in the Research Triangle tech ecosystem or leadership in KFBS student organizations, he is constantly looking for opportunities to grow. Yonas aims to continue working at the intersection of technology, strategy, and social impact when he graduates from UNC in 2024.

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Matt Fleck:
Welcome back to the Encouraging Words for School Counselors podcast. I’m Matt Fleck with Inspire Success. 

We’ve asked listeners like you to share stories related to the holidays this month…and this next set of stories kind of fits that bill.

See if you can identify with the scenario. You meet someone and they ask you what you do and you say you’re a school counselor and they typically say one of two things – 1) Wow, that’s really cool, you’re a good person, OR sadly, something that begins with 2) Oh, well let me tell you about MY school counselor…followed by a story about how bad they felt their counselor was.

So it will ease your mind to hear today from two former high school students – both completing college degrees in business in North Carolina – who thought their school counselors were rock stars. 

Our colleague Chloe Benjamin in North Carolina talked first with Yonas Kemal who told her he became a “school counselor groupie” because he sensed his counselor truly wanted to connect with him.

Yonas Kemal:
The one or two that stuck with me, they were the ones who were not just there as kind of a service to me, even though that is technically the job, but that were really going to kind of build relationships, that seek to have regular meetings asking beyond what my grades were, what I was kind of just doing in high school, but beyond that, really having conversations about what I desired, what I really wanted and how best they could be a support.

Yonas is one of those students who makes you feel good by just being his counselor. He’s so driven to succeed that he and his family meet regularly to set career, school, and academic goals. And though having a counselor who truly wants to connect is what he liked most about his counselor, there’s more. 

A lot of students across the country — especially now after what’s happened — and you know, you never know what a student is going through, what forces are behind their grades and their performance and how they’re doing what their goals are. And so really having a level of empathy and understanding for where the student might be coming from and how that might drive what they’re doing, what they want. And that, again, builds back to the first thing of how you can kind of have that true desire to connect.

The second student Chloe interviewed is Emily Caprioglio. Emily met the school counselor she admires shortly after moving to North Carolina from New Hampshire at the age of 14. During one of Emily’s first days at her new school, all of the counselors visited English classrooms to encourage students to sign up to see their counselor and ‘create a relationship.’ So Emily did just that. 

Emily Caprioglio:
And my counselor, which I was very, very lucky to find out, was Ms. Cotton. I absolutely adored Ms. Cotton from the first time I met her and she was extremely supportive from there on out. I told her that I was really interested in business and really interested in government and sort of, you know, kind of try out classes and see where I go from there. But I didn’t want to commit to anything yet. And since I was so new to the area and new to the school, I didn’t know what clubs to join or what classes to take, but she came down to my marketing class the next day and stood in front of my desk for the next 30 minutes and talked to me about DECA and said, “I’m not leaving until you join.”

DECA is an international organization for business students that teaches leadership skills through role-plays and scenarios. Ms. Cotton helped Emily connect to DECA events, study for the competitions, and continually encouraged her as she won events first at the regional, then state, national, and even international levels. 

I think the biggest impact Ms. Cotton had on me was telling me that I should just, why not? Why not sign up? Why not do it? You should take the next step in something that you’re interested in, regardless of whether or not you necessarily think you’re ready for it. Why, why, why not? I was 14. It was a club — might as well show up to the first competition. And she proved that to me. She said you are worthy of going and showing up at this competition — just because you’re new doesn’t mean that you’re any lesser than anyone else around you.

When Emily asked her counselor why she took such an interest in her, Ms. Cotton said one key reason was because Emily was the only student who took her up on the invitation to meet with her counselor. But she also saw Emily’s potential and decided to make sure she utilized it. Our colleague Chloe asked how all of this relates to our theme of stories around the holidays.

Chloe Benjamin:
Are you thinking maybe you might share this podcast with Ms. Cotton at some point?

Yes. I think I am going to reach out to Ms. Cotton and send it to her for the holidays as a thank you for everything that she’s done over the last four years. And that I am very, very jealous that all of her lucky students get her now. 

I think there can’t be a better holiday gift than a student from the past reaching out and letting someone know how much positive impact that they’ve had on their lives. So thank you so much for sharing this story!

Not all of our students are groupies like Yonas and Emily…but that’s not the point is it?  The holidays remind us once again that it’s really what we give, regardless of whether we get anything back in return.

If you have five minutes in the next few weeks – even while you’re on break – to share a touching or humorous story of YOUR experiences working with students, we’d sure love to hear it. You can easily record your story on our online soundbooth at – OR just use one of your phone apps to record your story and drop it in an email to me at

Good luck as you wind things down ahead of the holiday break and thanks for listening again this week.