When Edinboro University alumna Tracey Merlino began her career as a school counselor at Belle Valley Elementary School nearly 20 years ago, she probably wasn’t predicting a congratulatory hug from former First Lady Michelle Obama. Yet, somehow, it happened.
Merlino, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in counseling from EU, was named the 2017-18 Pennsylvania School Counselors Association (PSCA) School Counselor of the Year. The award honors school counselors who have made significant contributions to their students and school districts. A counselor in the Millcreek Township School District, Merlino was nominated for the recognition by Mike Simmons, a counselor at James W. Parker Middle School in Edinboro.
Earlier this month, she represented Pennsylvania at the American Counselor Association (ASCA) School Counselor of the Year celebration in Washington, D.C. The event featured former First Lady Michelle Obama, who spoke about the importance of school counselors and educators.
“Mrs. Obama went low for a handshake, but I went high for a hug,” Merlino said. “She was gracious and kind, and her words will continue to motivate me for the remainder of my career.”
Merlino first enrolled at EU as an early childhood education major. She came from a family of teachers and happily followed suit. It wasn’t until she was offered a graduate assistant position that she considered a change. Accepting the offer meant that Merlino would stay at EU to complete a graduate degree. After browsing several programs, elementary school counseling caught her eye.
“The program turned out to be more than interesting,” Merlino said. “The professors were brilliant, motivating and taught me to be a good listener.”
Merlino described her time at EU as a blessing, stating that the opportunities EU provided lead her to a career that is both personally and professionally awarding. Every day, Merlino experiences the personal satisfaction of influencing and assisting a child’s growth.
EU was a huge stepping stone in Tracey Merlino’s career. Along with her experience, Merlino offers EU students advice about pursuing their own goals. She said that working towards goals involves taking on the responsibility of being persistent and hardworking and finding value in each person connect with.
“Integrity is key when working hard to achieve your goals,” Merlino said. “Without it, others will not celebrate your success and the finish line will be a lonely place.”
To learn more about Edinboro University’s academic programs in education and school counseling, visit www.edinboro.edu.
Photo caption: Edinboro University alumna Tracey Merlino, a school counselor at Belle Valley Elementary School, was recognized by the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association (PSCA) as the 2017-18 School Counselor of the Year.