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Michelle Obama calls Chicagoan named school counselor of the year

Michelle Obama surprises Kirsten Perry, a West Side elementary school counselor recently honored as tops in her profession | Screen-grab from @MichelleObama video

Kirsten Perry has gotten her share of congratulations since learning last fall that she had been named the 2018 School Counselor of the Year for her work at Lawndale Community Academy on the West Side.

But perhaps Perry’s biggest kudos came this week, as she was expecting a call from the director of the American School Counselor Association — the organization that honored her — only to hear a voice familiar to millions.

“Hi, Kirsten. This is Michelle Obama. How are you?”

The former first lady, a native South Sider, shared a video of the surprise Thursday afternoon on Twitter.

Kirsten Perry | American School Counselor Association

“I’m calling you just to say congratulations on being the 2018 School Counselor of the Year,” Obama says. “You guys, isn’t that exciting?”

Perry, surrounded by five of her students at the elementary school at 3500 W. Douglas Blvd., is visibly star-struck in the video.

“This is amazing,” she says. Perry also found out Obama will introduce her at a Washington D.C. gala on Feb. 2.

“We’re gonna get a chance to spend a little time together,” Obama says.

Perry, who earned degrees from UIC and DePaul University, has been a counselor for six years, joining Lawndale in 2015. She was chosen from six finalists spanning the country to be honored for “their ability to create systemic change within the profession through significant leadership, collaboration and advocacy,” according to the ASCA.

Lawndale Principal Willard Willette credited Perry with helping lift the school out of a dismal academic rating that it had been mired in for five years before Perry’s arrival. She also brought in police officers to talk about building better community relations.

In an ASCA statement, former student Kyla Evans said the counselor’s peace circles helped end a rash of student fights.

“Ms. Perry helped us to work on ourselves,” Evans said. “She makes all the kids at Lawndale feel loved and like we can do anything we dream of.”