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Posted: January 12, 2016

Desert Ridge Counselor Named NM Counselor of the Year

Vicki Price will be heading to the White House for a reception and luncheon with the First Lady.

Vicki Price's counseling office at Desert Ridge Middle School is cluttered with scooters, skateboards and helmets that students store there during the school day. She calls it her parking lot. But it's also an open invitation for students to come by, maybe just to park their wheels, or maybe to get some advice, guidance and support.

It's that open door policy, that innovative approach to counseling, that earned Price the title of New Mexico School Counselor of the Year by the New Mexico School Counselor Association. As part of the honor, she will travel to Washington D.C. later this month to represent New Mexico at a meeting of the American School Counseling Association. The trip will include a White House luncheon and reception with the First Lady, a round table discussion with counselors from across the country, and a black tie affair.

"I work with so many good people, and it's such an big honor to be Counselor of the Year," Price said. "It pretty much validates that maybe I'm headed in the right direction, maybe I'm doing OK."

Price was selected as New Mexico Counselor of the year based on her "comprehensive school counseling program that promotes equity and access to opportunities and rigorous education experiences for all students at Desert Ridge," according to the New Mexico School Counselor Association. "Her evidence-based interventions help promote student success, professional collaboration efforts with students, parents, colleagues and community members, as well all of her continued efforts to advocate and promote the professional of school counseling in New Mexico."

School counseling is a second career for Price, who once was a bank auditor. She quit that profession to raise her three sons -- now 18 and 21-year-old twins. Her active involvement in their education led to a part-time job that evolved into a counseling career. 

A typical day for Price is anything but typical. She meets with students on a variety of issues ranging from cyberbullying to schedule changes. She works with teachers and parents and other counselors. She might be coordinating a college and career fair for eighth graders or a lesson on staying organized for sixth graders. She could be talking about suicide intervention or learning about the latest social media trends or coordinating a Best Buddies activity. Desert Ridge was the first middle school in the state to host the organization that helps develop one-to-one friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It now has more than 160 members.

And, when she isn't doing all of that and more, she's collecting data. "It shows where we're being effective, where we could do better, and where the kids are," she said.