02/04/10 — Counselors recognize students who have overcome obstacles

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Counselors recognize students who have overcome obstacles

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 4, 2010 1:46 PM

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Gladys Diggs, left, counselor at Charles B. Aycock High School, was named counselor of the year for Wayne County Public Schools during Wednesday's annual counselor awards ceremony at central office. Students recognized for overcoming obstacles to become successful in school were, from left, Cierra Garner from North Drive Elementary School, Abby Keen from Grantham School, Carolynn Johnson from Southern Wayne High, Dillon Green from Norwayne Middle and Harley Yelverton from Charles B. Aycock. Absent was Ethan Shingleton from Brogden Primary School.

A school counselor's job is challenging enough when there are behavior problems or the need to help a child make up some missed assignments.

But when students are facing such obstacles as bone cancer, frequent hospitalizations and being on transplant lists, the job can become a daunting task.

Each year, in the midst of what is supposed to be National Counselors Week, those in the profession with Wayne County Public Schools decide, instead, to recognize the students they serve.

On Wednesday afternoon, they honored six students -- two each from the elementary, middle and high school levels -- for overcoming obstacles just to be in school.

There was Ethan Shingleton, a first-grader at Grantham School, who takes growth hormones and has lost nearly all his teeth due to the effects of chemo and radiation treatments since being diagnosed with bone cancer at 18 months old.

"It's a rare type that affects less than one out of a million children under 3," said his counselor, Cheryl Stafford. He will not be considered in remission until December 2010, she said.

And yet, Ms. Stafford told the audience, he remains a happy, outgoing, active little boy "full of life" with a contagious grin.

The other elementary school honoree was Cierra Garner, who had just been released from yet another stay in the hospital.

"Cierra has spent most of her life in the hospital," said Laverne Smith, school counselor. "She did not come home until she was 2 years old."

Her "short-gut syndrome," caused by shortened intestines, requires her to be on feeding tubes and drainage tubes.

"She has never eaten solid food," Ms. Smith said, adding that the second-grader is currently on a transplant list at Duke.

"She works hard, never complains and smiles all the time," she said. "She's very much in tune with her physical limitations and needs. She makes it so easy to take care of her."

Norwayne Middle School Counselor Tammy Munoz described her hero-student, Dillon Green, who struggles with physical as well as emotional issues that made him apprehensive about starting middle school.

His spirit and willingness to work hard, along with being in a supportive environment, have helped him become successful.

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