Durham County

DPS names district’s top counselor, social worker

Matt Harkey (right) is pictured with an unidentified student. Harkey was recently named Durham Public Schools’ Counselor of the Year.
Matt Harkey (right) is pictured with an unidentified student. Harkey was recently named Durham Public Schools’ Counselor of the Year. Durham Public Schools

The Durham Public Schools recently announced its School Counselor and Social Worker of the Year.

Matt Harkey, a school counselor at Northern High School, was named Counselor of the Year just three years after becoming the department chairman.

Harkey is credited with maintaining an effective counseling department even as staffing levels were reduced.

He has also sought to build better relationships with Northern’s teachers and staff by remaining visible and communicative.

“Matt [Harkey] is one of the finest counselors I’ve seen,” said Principal Danny Gilfort. “He has an analytical mind. He’s playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers. He is a leader and an initiator who is committed to the whole school.”

Harkey has made career and college counseling outreach available to every student, every year, so each student sees a counselor and goes through the career and college planning curricula at least annually.

He has also chaired the School Improvement Team for the past two years.

The students at Northern think highly of Harkey.

Here is what two of the students he works with had to say about him:

▪ “Mr. Harkey is ‘on it!’ He doesn’t delay. If you ask him a question, he’ll have an answer for you the same day.”

▪ “In my ninth-grade year, I was lost in this school, and Mr. Harkey said he would be my guide. He got me from a trembling ninth grader to a fearless senior; he’s awesome!”

Juston Hill, the Durham Public Schools’ Social Worker of the Year, is described as a dedicated student advocate who operates with an open-door policy and an attitude free of judgment.

School officials said Hill is committed to every student’s success and engages daily with at-risk students and their families.

In addition, Hill is comfortable conducting home visits and is always willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that even the most complex cases have his full attention and are thoroughly resolved.

“Juston’s [Hill’s] strongest asset is his ability to build relationships coupled with competence,” said Hillside Principal William Logan. “He knows what he’s doing and knows his job and is a very capable as a social worker.”

Logan said Hill views his work is as “more than just a job.”

“He really cares for these students and does those little things required to make a student successful,” Logan said.

Hill is credited with making connections within the community to provide students and their families with adequate resources and support beyond the school setting.

He is said to work tirelessly to reconnect students to the school who are at risk of dropping out, and is successful in using partnerships with community agencies to make sure all areas of the student’s life are supported.

The students at Hillside also think highly of Hill.

Here is what three of the students he works with had to say about him:

▪  “He’s somebody I can go to if I’m having a problem with anything.”

▪  “He’s the most resourceful person that I know.”

▪  “He doesn’t shy away from a problem.”

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645

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