Skip to main content

Alumna, American School Counselor Association leader to deliver School’s 2024 graduation address

Two-time Tar Heel Jill Cook, ASCA executive director, to address UNC School of Education graduates during May 11 ceremony in Carmichael Arena
Portrait of Jill Cook, executive director of the American School Counselor Association

Jill Cook (’88 B.M.Ed., ’91 M.Ed.), executive director of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), will deliver the UNC School of Education’s graduation address on Saturday, May 11.

The ceremony will be held at noon in Carmichael Arena on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

Lauded as “a tireless advocate” for school counselors by First Lady Jill Biden, Cook has dedicated her life to supporting, empowering, and improving the school counseling profession. A former music teacher, middle school counselor, and assistant principal, she joined ASCA two decades ago and has served as its executive director since October 2020.

“This school of education’s work is guided by the idea of educating the whole child, which recognizes the importance of education professionals who provide critical wraparound services to ensure the well-being of students,” said Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the UNC School of Education and Alumni Distinguished Professor. “School counselors top that list of professionals, and Jill Cook tops the list of school counseling leaders.

“As a nation, we are lucky to have Jill’s advocacy for school counselors who work to ensure the academic, social/emotional, and post-secondary success of our young people. I cannot wait for this year’s graduates and those in attendance to hear a message that could not be more timely or important.”

During its 2024 graduation ceremony, the School will celebrate school counseling graduates who are members of the first cohorts of the Fellows for Inclusive Excellence and Helping Heels programs — programs that recognize the need for high-quality educators, especially school counselors, in rural communities.

The Fellows for Inclusive Excellence program, made possible by a $3 million gift, works to place student teachers and school counselors-in-training in Person and Chatham counties’ rural Title 1 schools and then incentivize them to remain in those communities after graduation. The U.S. Department of Education-funded Helping Heels program places school counselors-in-training in Person and Granville counties to help address the mental health needs of K-12 students in rural communities.

Before rising to executive director of ASCA, Cook helped to develop the association’s National School Counselor of the Year Program and the Recognized ASCA Model Program, and served as liaison to numerous K-12, non-profit, and for-profit organizations focused on issues related to the well-being of the nation’s students. In those roles and in her current one, Cook’s singular focus has remained the same: to ensure every student has access to the best student counselor.

In June 2023, Cook was elected to serve as chair of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of leading education organizations that represent more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s schools.

Cook has also been involved with the National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, the Evidence Based School Counseling Conference, the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, the STEM Equity Pipeline through the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the National Coalition of Personnel Services in Special Education and Related Services, the College Board’s Member Engagement Advisory Committee, and the Special Olympics North America National Recognition Program.

She participated in the American Express Leadership Academy and has worked with the U.S. Army and the National Association of Secondary School Principals on the Leadership and Professional Development Symposium for principals and school counselors.

In 2014, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention presented Cook with the Allies in Action Partner Award for her work helping to develop a model school district suicide prevention policy. In 2019, the National Dance Society recognized her with the Dance Advocate Award for her work in supporting students’ mental health.

Cook is a certified association executive through the American Society for Association Executives. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has done postgraduate work at UNC-Greensboro and Appalachian State University.

+ Share This