This month, I am writing about two amazing women whose contributions to the American Counseling Association and the counseling profession are worth noting and appreciating. As many of you know, June is the conclusion of our fiscal year at ACA. In addition to “closing the books,” we also begin the transition to a new group of leaders at all levels of the organization. As of July 1, it is time to start anew, but also to strategically carry on with the plans that fulfill the mission of the association.
June is a bittersweet month for me. After working for the past 12 months with our national president, it means I will soon see that person move into the role of immediate past president. ACA has been fortunate to have Cirecie West-Olatunji serve as our top elected officer this year. She was tireless in her efforts to bring the various facets of the profession together, to encourage meaningful dialogue among those from within as well as those external to the counseling profession, and to reach beyond our geographic borders to share ACA’s content and knowledge with those outside of the United States.
During our year together, Cirecie demonstrated her commitment to being a leader. She traveled extensively to connect to, consult with and support members who were at various stages of their careers in the counseling profession. She helped many of these members focus on their career aspirations, and she was always encouraging to those who would be phenomenal ACA leaders. Given her background as a counselor educator, Cirecie did a wonderful job mentoring students far and wide this year, and she was also determined to ensure that ACA was represented in discussions regarding research that is critical to the continued development of the profession.
Cirecie planted a number of “project seeds” during her time in office. While some of those seeds bloomed this year, there are a number of projects and issues that will see the light of day in future years. Her mark on the profession will continue to be realized, so rather than saying “goodbye,” the staff and I look forward to her continued involvement in ACA on various levels.
At the beginning of this column, I said I would be writing about two amazing women. At the end of this month, ACA will gather to bid farewell to someone I have known for my entire tenure at the association. After three decades as part of the ACA staff family, our deputy executive director, Carol Neiman, has decided to retire.
During a tribute to Carol at the ACA Conference in March, I said, “Each year, I come before you and ask you to join me in honoring an individual or a group who has had an impact on the profession, our members or even sometimes just me. This year, I want you to help me honor someone who has impacted all three of those categories.
“For more than 20 years, I have come to work at ACA, and there is one individual whom I have worked with every day, through good times and some not so good times. This person has been a font of knowledge, a wisdom keeper and someone who has helped to guide me in doing what is right. She is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have ever known in my life.”
Carol really cannot be replaced. We will move on, of course, and however we structure things after her departure, I know that our subsequent successes can in part be attributed to her many efforts. She has instilled in all of us the need to take care of our members, respond to their concerns and develop the products and services that they value. We are a better organization because of her innumerable contributions to ACA, its members, its leaders and the entire counseling profession.
So there you have it — my thoughts on two amazing women who have helped to shape who we are as ACA and whose dedication and efforts will continue to shape our development for years to come.
On behalf of the entire staff, I want to also thank all of you who chose to serve in a volunteer role this year. Whether you are a graduate student, practicing counselor, counselor educator or retired member, we very much appreciate your connection to ACA and your efforts to serve the profession.