RamosElementary School

Ramos Elementary Becomes Second School in ASD Recognized for School Counseling Program

Ramos Elementary Becomes Second School in ASD Recognized for School Counseling Program
Posted on 05/12/2020
Allentown, PA (May 11, 2020) - The Allentown School District is excited to announce that Louis A. Ramos Elementary School has been named a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Ramos becomes the second school in ASD to receive this national recognition, following in the footsteps of Muhlenberg Elementary, which achieved RAMP last year. The RAMP designation recognizes schools that are committed to delivering an exemplary comprehensive school counseling program. Honorees are awarded for aligning their program with the criteria in the ASCA National Model, a framework for comprehensive, data-driven school counseling.

Laura Zaharakis, who has been with ASD for roughly 15 years oversees the counseling program for the 700 students at Ramos Elementary. School counselors play a vital role in cultivating a culture within the Allentown School District where students feel safe, valued, and nurtured. The goals outlined in the RAMP application at Ramos focused on improving attendance and trauma-informed education.

“School counselor Laura Zaharakis is a vital part of our Ramos community,” said Marybeth Kornfeind-Ralston, principal. She works tirelessly to address the social and emotional well-being of our Ramos students.  Mrs. Z. has been an advocate for our students, developing school counseling programs that focus on social-emotional learning, trauma sensitivity, mindfulness, career readiness and so much more. We are excited that Ramos is being recognized on the national stage and honored by the positive impact Mrs. Z. has on our students.”

Outlined in the district’s Strategic Framework, improving chronic absenteeism, and implementing Restorative Practices are key goals to improve the culture and climate in our schools. ASD’s counselors are charged with creating programs and interventions at the school level to meet these goals. At Ramos, Zaharakis selected implemented student supports that built relationships, gave teachers trauma-informed training, and created mechanisms to support student growth. With her help, teachers at Ramos created “cool-down corners” in every classroom and advocated for stronger parent involvement. These programs align with the national ASCA model and create strong relationships between students, the school, and the community. Zaharakis led the application process with the help of Tracy Cummins, an ASD counselor who serves students at both Ramos and McKinley Elementary.  

“Achieving the RAMP designation for our school means we have set a high bar when it comes to providing interventions and supports for our students,” said Zaharakis. “Even while we are closed right now, our entire school is still working to provide counseling supports to students in a virtual setting. Every interaction has the potential opportunity to become an intervention, whether we know it or not.”

Since the program’s inception, nearly 1,000 schools have been designated as RAMP recipients. Ramos was one of only two Pennsylvania schools to receive the designation this year. The multi-year application process includes gathering and analyzing data but also involves members of the community in the form of an advisory council. The Ramos advisory council included parents, teachers, administrators, ASD Board of Director Cheryl Johnson-Watts, community partners such as Asbury UMC, Community Bikeworks, and representatives from other local churches who host after school programs in the school community. 
“This year’s RAMP honorees have shown their commitment to students and the school counseling profession,” said Jill Cook, ASCA assistant director. “These schools used data to drive their program development and implementation so all students can achieve success. RAMP designation distinguishes these schools and encourages school counselors nationwide to strive for excellence.”

Ramos Elementary School and other new RAMP schools are scheduled to be honored at a recognition ceremony at ASCA’s annual conference this summer, which has been made a virtual conference. They are hoping to schedule an in-person recognition ceremony when it is safe to do so. The designation lasts five years, and the school must apply to “re-RAMP” to maintain its status in 2025.