Geraldine “Geri” Christian Henderson was selected as the 2021 Outstanding Alumna of the Zucker Family School of Education at The Citadel for exemplifying what it means to be a principled leader. As the Director of School Counseling, Geri was a pioneer in organizing for the first school counseling cohort offered in Beaufort County in Spring 2021 in a partnership with The Citadel’s Zucker Family School of Education. This program allows Beaufort County teachers to transition towards becoming school counselors and providing the social and emotional support that they need. Moreover, she heeded the call of duty for her team of school counselors by securing district support for The Citadel to offer coursework leading these school counselors to obtain their Licensed Professional Counselor credentialing. In further equipping them with clinical counseling skills, this team of professionals leads the state in their ability to support students’ emerging and ever-evolving needs.
Dean Evan Ortlieb, from the Zucker Family School of Education, shared “I have never met a school leader so driven and committed to ensuring that her school counselors, teachers, administrators, and staff. She is a professional unlike any other and we are graced by her presence and endless gifts of selfless dedication to her craft.”
Geraldine “Geri” Christian Henderson is originally from Shelby, Mississippi. During her senior year in high school, she enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. On May 25, 1981, she reported for recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Her duties while in the Marine Corps included: Service Record Book Clerk, Administrative Chief, Career Planner, Drill Instructor, and Marksmanship Coach. She provided administrative support at the command level to the Commanding General, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Okinawa, Japan; Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan and the Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, South Carolina.
During her military career, Geri was stationed or on special assignment at Cherry Point, North Carolina; Naval Air Station, Lemoore, California; Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California; Little Creek, Virginia; Parris Island, South Carolina; Quantico, Virginia; Camp Johnson, North Carolina; Okinawa & Yokosuka, Japan; Brisbane, Townsend, and Darwin, Australia; America Territory Guam; and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. Her sea time includes deployments aboard the USS Blue Ridge.
In June 2001, Geri retired from the Marine Corps as a Gunnery Sergeant at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort after serving twenty years of honorable and faithful service. While in the Marine Corps, she was meritoriously promoted several times and her personal awards include the Navy Commendation Medal with Gold Star, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Two Gold Stars, Good Conduct Medal with Six Bronze Stars, National Defense Medal, Sea Service Deployment Medal with Two Bronze Stars, and numerous other awards.
While in the Marine Corps, Geri furthered her education. In May 1999, she earned an Associate of Arts Degree from the University of South Carolina Beaufort. In May 2001, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Psychology from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
After retiring from the Marine Corps in 2001, Geri worked as an Individual and Family Counselor with Jayreese Therapeutic Services. She provided mental health and behavior services by putting in place interventions that removed barriers with culturally competent treatment to clients in both Beaufort and Jasper counties.
In 2002, Geri was employed as the School-To-Work Counselor at Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence (ACE) in Ridgeland, South Carolina. In 2008, she earned a Master’s Degree in Education as a Professional School Counselor from Cambridge College in Augusta, Georgia. While employed at ACE, Geri was instrumental in turning around a below average career center to an exemplary career center that earned the Palmetto Gold and/or Silver Award during the last six years of her tenure at ACE. She started numerous new initiatives that empowered students, to include: Military Career Day, College and Career Fairs, College Campus Tours, Lunch Time Presentations, Military Mentors, the development of curriculum centered on Customer Service and Life Skills, End-of-the-Year Business Partners’ Banquet, and much more. By the time she left ACE, the career center had over one-hundred business partners. In addition, Geri completed the applications that made ACE a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), American College Test (ACT), and Automotive Service Exam (ASE) Test Center. While at ACE, she was also selected as the 2004 Employee of the Year.
Because of her exemplary performance at ACE, Geri was sought out by Dr. Valeria Truesdale (BCSD, Superintendent) and Board members to serve on the Leadership Team to open Whale Branch Early College High School (WBECHS). In February 2010, she accepted the position as the Lead School Counselor and was instrumental in opening this new school with a new concept. WBECHS was the first school in the state to have dual enrollment courses embedded in the master schedule that were taught to students in grades 10th – 12th on a high school campus.
During her tenure at WBECHS, Geri was instrumental in the success of the school by implementing a comprehensive school counseling program that empowered students, preparing them for their post-secondary endeavors. Some of the initiatives included: College and Career Day, Military Career Day, Lunch Time Recruiting, Grade-Level Meetings, the development of the Senior and Juniors Survival Guide, SAT, ACT, and ASVAB Workshops, FASFA Night, National Honor Society, social and emotional counseling, and much more. She completed the applications that made WBECHS a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and an American College Test (ACT) Test Center. Also, she completed the extensive paperwork for the school to be recognized by NCAA and NAIA. While at WBECHS, Geri was selected as the 2012 Educator of the Year by South Carolina’s School Resource Officers Association.
In July 2014, Geri was appointed the first Director of School Counseling for Beaufort County School District as a result of her trail blazing initiatives and exceptional performance of duty while at WBECHS. As a result of her exceptional performance of duty as the Director of School Counseling, she was tasked with performing two jobs simultaneously for four years. The two jobs were Director of Secondary Education and Director of School Counseling. While performing two jobs, she earned her Master’s Degree in Education Leadership from the Citadel in May 2020.
As the Director of School Counseling, she has started many new initiatives to support school counselors to include: Career Development Facilitator Cohort, Licensed Professional Development Cohort, School Counseling Cohort, Monthly Professional Development, New School Counselors Orientation, School Counselors of the Year, School Counselors Leadership Team, District College Fair, District Financial Aid Night, District Dual Enrollment Night, Junior Scholars Banquet, the increased the number of students enrolled in the Dual Enrollment Program, the expansion of the dual enrollment partnership to include the University of South Carolina Beaufort, and much more.
Geri was single-handedly responsible for Beaufort County School District becoming a Military Purple Star District on May 27, 2021. A Military Purple Star District is a district committed to supporting the unique educational and social-emotional needs of military-connected children. As a result of this effort, Geri was present the first ever “Game Ball Award” by Dr. Frank Rodriguez who is the Superintendent of Beaufort County School District.
Geri has been married to her husband, Nesby E. Henderson, for thirty-one years and they have three children (Lasundra, Latoya, and Nesby II) and seven grandchildren.