Student News

Kristen Newitt, Sandra Martinez-Zuniga receive annual awards from School Counseling Program

Photo of Kristen Newitt

Kristen Newitt


Photo of Sandra Martinez-Zuniga

Sandra Martinez-Zuniga

Two students were selected as the recipients of annual awards presented by the School Counseling Program to recognize outstanding performance and advocacy. Kristen Newitt was chosen as the recipient of the W.D. Perry Outstanding Student award, and Sandra Martinez-Zuniga received the Galassi-Brown Advocacy Award.

Both Newitt and Martinez-Zuniga are outstanding leaders in the School Counseling Program. They are highly regarded by their peers, and both were nominated for their respective awards by fellow students. Newitt also was nominated by her public school mentor. Both completed their Master of Education degrees in School Counseling this summer.

W.D. Perry Outstanding Student Award

The W.D. Perry Award is given to one student each year who is graduating from the School Counseling M.Ed. Program and has demonstrated academic excellence, outstanding performance in the counseling field placement, unwavering adherence to ethical and professional standards, and student leadership within the program. The award is named for Dr. William D. Perry, a former professor in the School of Education who provided 30 years of teaching and leadership to students.

This year’s recipient – Kristy Newitt – has demonstrated academic excellence in her graduate studies as well as exceptional leadership in the program and at her school site. Melinda Harder (M.Ed. ’06), her supervisor and mentor at Sherwood Githens Middle School in Durham, wrote in her nomination that Newitt has made herself an integral part of the Githens faculty, who often seek her advice to help with their students.

“Kristy’s attitude has been positive, caring and hardworking,” Harder wrote. “I believe she always keeps the student’s best interest as her primary motivation for everything she does. Kristy has a natural counseling ability and the students respond so well to her.”

Harder added that Newitt has taken on a great deal of responsibility with the students, and has made herself available to contribute whenever possible. “This spring, she volunteered to become one of the girls’ lacrosse team coaches, and partnered with an intern at one of the elementary feeder schools to pair fifth- and sixth-grade students together in a pen-pal project to ease middle school transition,” wrote Harder.

In another nomination, a fellow student wrote about Newitt’s leadership among the counseling students. “The first week, during Summer Session I, Kristy was the person who organized the first study session for our group. Her spirit and motivation to study our courses can only be compared to her desire to apply all she has learned in her internship placement. During our cross-cultural counseling class, her questions and comments were always keen and showed her analytical skills. At the same time, she is extremely ethical and shows empathy for all individuals. It has truly been an honor to have her in my classes.”

Galassi-Brown Advocacy Award

The Galassi-Brown Advocacy Award recognizes one School Counseling student each year who is judged by the faculty to have gone beyond expectations and demonstrated exceptional advocacy for K-12 students, for the schools where the counseling student has worked and for the school counseling profession. The award is named for Drs. John P. Galassi and Duane Brown, who have been professors in the School of Education and dedicated more than 60 years of combined service. They both have been strong advocates of the school counseling profession and demonstrated their leadership through research and scholarship. Brown is now retired, while Galassi continues to serve on the School Counseling faculty.

Sandra Martinez-Zuniga – this year’s award recipient – has worked with a variety of intervention programs at her school site, including: “Lunch Bunch,” a program in which students at risk for retention have the opportunity to work on homework while school counselors teach self-regulation techniques; a classroom guidance bullying intervention; a peer-helping program for transition from elementary to middle school; and a successful ethnic identity cultural club.

“I have seen Sandra in action with the New Student Group, at the ‘Moving Up’ Transition to Middle School Day, and I have heard tapes from her individual counseling and consultation sessions,” wrote a fellow student who nominated Martinez-Zuniga. “I have always been impressed with her insight, dedication and rapport with clients.”

Another peer in the cohort said, “I believe both during classes and at her site, Sandra has demonstrated being a strong advocate for students. I know that at her site she has taken actions that went beyond her role as an intern to spread awareness in working toward closing the achievement gap. Her opinions during class made me see things from a different perspective in regards to academic injustices.”