President-elect Candidate Speech: Paul Welsh
Fenton High School
IACAC President-elect for 2022-2023
My name is Paul Welsh and I humbly accept your nomination to serve as IACAC’s next president-elect. I was honored to address the Membership at our first in-person conference in three years and welcome the opportunity to share these words again in the Admission Essay.
I am a school counselor at Fenton High School in Bensenville, just down the road from the rolling hills and natural beauty of Itasca’s Hamilton Lakes District. Before I can accept the role of president-elect, I must thank my colleagues and administration at Fenton, some of whom joined us at Conference, for their personal and institutional support.
I could not serve the Association and our members without the support of those who will be asked to serve my students on the many days that I will not be there for them. For that, I am grateful and I thank my colleagues at Fenton.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to Dan Rogan from New Trier High School. After teaching history at an American school in Mexico and at Farragut Career Academy in Chicago, I found myself a brand new school counselor at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in 2008. Back then, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Dan said something about some association or something I should join so I could learn how to mail out official transcripts and visit colleges or something like that. Thank you Dan, for that introduction and welcome to IACAC..
And here I am, taking my turn at leadership and articulating a vision for where I see our Association going.
Before I spell out that vision, let’s review IACAC’s mission:
To support and advance the work of counselors as they help students realize their full educational potential, with particular emphasis on the transition from secondary schools to colleges and universities and with attention to access and equality for all students.
Maybe there is some language here that could use an update, but my point is that we are a member-serving organization, and we do this well. At the Conference, President Tony Minestra summarized the many ways we support and advance our work to serve students. And when we do this work, Illinois is a leader among NACAC affiliates. I hope to advance that leadership in two main ways moving forward:
1. Meet the needs of IACAC members
We do not wait for national leadership to tell us what our members need. And because we do not take orders or serve a national association, it is incumbent upon each of us to raise our voices to the presidents, to the elected Executive Board, and to committee chairs to tell IACAC leadership what the professionals in this field need.
For example, many members, myself included, are deeply concerned about the new “counselor gift ban” law that questions our integrity and has the potential to alter the way we serve our students. This law negatively impacts the work we do every day. I will make it a priority to repeal or amend this misguided law but we will need you to get involved.
Some members may know me from my time serving on the Government Relations Committee and that advocacy is very important to me. We have a responsibility to speak up and make our case to legislators and other policy-makers on this and other issues. Soon, we will ask you to contact your state legislators to educate them about what we do and about our ethical responsibility to serve students.
2. Position IACAC as a national leader
In recent years, NACAC has gone through many changes and continues to redefine itself and its relationship to the affiliates. That relationship must be one between equals and must be mutually beneficial.
We will remain engaged with NACAC and will seek to influence its policy and direction based on the needs of our members. Many of you took some time at Conference and introduced yourself to Angel Perez, NACAC CEO. I certainly took my “face time” with him to highlight my vision for IACAC and to share some of these same concerns.
While engaging with NACAC, IACAC is an independent association of professionals and we will remain so. We will maintain independence of mission to serve our members, and we will continue to be financially independent, responsible stewards of our own income and expenses and accountable to you, the Membership.
Speaking of Membership, of you, here’s where you come in.
Not long after Dan Rogan introduced me to IACAC, Annie Kremer stood on stage at a Conference and urged us to “Just say YES.”
She also personally asked many of us to say “yes” to a leadership opportunity, to meet a need of the Association at the time. In my case, it was to serve as a committee chair, and I took my turn. I didn’t think I was quite ready, but with the advice and counsel of those before me, and learning along the way with co-chairs, I grew into the role.
I have also taken a turn leading cyclists on the one-of-a-kind “Bike O’Fun” college tours and I serve as a Delegate Director on the Executive Board. Since Annie made that ask, I have asked many of you to say “yes” to something, and I am grateful that you agreed, that you took a turn.
As I considered accepting this nomination, this responsibility to serve IACAC in this role, I thought long and hard: “Is it my turn again? Is this my turn?” Serving an Association of professionals as a volunteer is not going to be easy. It will take time away from my family and require the support and understanding of my wife and three children, ages two, four and six.
Do I have the time?
Do I have the support of my institution?
Of my wife and family? (I do, by the way. I asked Bridget and we had a long discussion!)
How do I balance this with of responsibilities – husband, father, T-ball coach?
And I pledge to you, my colleagues and friends, that I am committed to the role, committed to the vision of IACAC’s future articulated above.
So as I take my turn, I conclude by asking you to take yours. Do not just take your turn. Seek it out. It may be serving on a committee or as a committee chair. This Association has uncountable opportunities from committee work up to Executive Board service and into the Presidents cycle.
Whether you attended your first conference in April and you are new to the profession, or you are a veteran looking to exercise leadership skills or you are somewhere in between, there is a turn for you.
Embrace it. You are ready. Your turn is coming and you are going to be great!