Morristown High School’s Monica Tate-Melendez named 2024 Counselor of the County

By Jonathan Garrett


Monica Tate-Melendez, School Counselor at Morristown High School, was named 2024 Counselor of the County for Morris County by The New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA) at the Association’s 38th annual Professional Recognition Awards Program. Held this year on March 15, 2024, the event celebrates the selection of one School Counselor from each of New Jersey’s counties. Counselors are nominated by their school colleagues, with final award decisions made by a NJSCA committee.


Ms. Tate-Melendez, a lifelong New Jersey resident, holds a BA in Anthropology and Puerto Rican Hispanic Caribbean Studies from Rutgers University and an MA in Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling from Montclair State University. She reports being “absolutely” surprised by the award, noting that, “I was not aware that my colleague and mentor, Karen Wolf, nominated me for this award. Not only was I surprised, I was humbled that my contributions were being recognized.” She continues by lauding her colleagues and work environment at MHS: “I work with amazing people. Every day, I learn from their wisdom, insight, and take inspiration from their enthusiasm. I work in a collaborative environment which translates into the ability to grow my skills each year.”  


According to Ms. Tate-Melendez, an award-winning counselor must “embody the values and ethics of the New Jersey School Counselor Association” and nominations are often prompted by counselors’ establishment of outstanding services or new initiatives. She cites that “I was nominated this year because I began a support program for first-generation college students called Be the First. A group of us collaborate on different topics shared in weekly workshops where the information is broken into bite-sized morsels. Our programs have included drop-in sessions to work on essays and college applications to clinics on summer programs, study skills, and even how to prepare for a college fair. We have brought in guest speakers such as Montclair State University as well as an Alumni panel of first-gen students. As well, I am one of the behind-the-scenes editors of Counselor Connections, which is the MHS School Counseling Department’s newsletter that is published five times a year. Lastly, I created a MHS Wellness page with resources for meditation and wellbeing.”


Born and raised in New Jersey, Ms. Tate-Melendez has lived in various parts of the Garden State but claims that her “heart resides in Morris and Essex Counties.” She says that “the diversity of our area translates into enriching relationships (and the best food!). Her interest in psychology emerged as a result of having been raised with the values giving back to her community. “Advocating for students aligns with this belief as well as my natural curiosity and my inclination to find solutions to problems.  Working with high school students is my favorite age group.  They are on the edge of adulthood with major decisions ahead of them, yet they possess imagination, curiosity, and the tenacity to change the world,” she notes.


As a School Counselor, Ms. Tate-Melendez attends numerous workshops throughout the year as well as endeavoring to visit colleges and universities. In the past year she has been taking classes with UCLA on College Admission Counseling in an effort to remain as current as possible within a changing world and in response to the need to stay in tune with the needs of students, their families and her own need to learn new skills. Asked about the most rewarding part of her work. Ms. Tate-Melendez says enthusiastically that “The most rewarding part of my job is working with my students! At Morristown High School there are such great opportunities for students. Students at MHS do not sit back as they also create new and wonderful programs. It is by far too many to name, but I am always impressed by what they do. MHS students are also incredibly resilient as they do not permit obstacles to impede their progress.” 


She notes being grateful for and well supported by the colleagues in her department: “We are always learning from each other while infusing humor. In addition, the school teachers and educators are professionals, and it is not uncommon for a teacher to reach out to me to support a student. They care about the students and it shows in their interactions.” As far as challenges that she experiences, Ms. Tate-Melendez states that “Working in education, no two days are the same. As much as your education, workshops and collaboration with school colleagues prepare you, there is always an unexpected situation that will challenge you.” 


Regarding her aspirations, she hopes that the Be the First program continues to expand.  She sees this as possible because “We seek the feedback of our current members and utilize that to accommodate new workshops and clinics. It is a solid first year of the program; however, as a group we are always discussing how to grow the programs and more effectively deliver services. I am also working on another project that I hope to implement next year.”

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