SOE News

Grant to help School Counseling students

A federal grant has been awarded to the School of Education to help students in the School Counseling master’s degree program.

The $228,000 grant will fund $10,000 stipends for each of the 20 students currently enrolled in the program. The stipend is intended to help defray living expenses and other costs associated with participating in the yearlong internship program that is central to the School Counseling program.

“This grant will hopefully highlight our program and improve our chances to win additional funding like this in the future,” said Meghan Walter, coordinator of the School Counseling program and author of the grant proposal.

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, arms of the Department of Health and Human Services. The agencies awarded a total of $44.5 million in an initiative to increase the capacity of mental health providers and substance abuse counselors across the country.

School counselors have ready access to young people who may be struggling with behavioral health challenges, Walter said. Students in Carolina’s School Counseling program receive intensive and specialized training that prepares them for helping children and youth who are at risk for developing or who have a recognized behavioral health disorder, she said.

Walter said the new funding will be used to support School Counseling students as they learn to work with diverse student populations, with an additional focus on engaging those students’ families.

As part of the grant, each School Counseling student will be provided $250 to pay for materials or incentives to be used to encourage families’ participation in a behavioral health program relevant to that school.

Support during internships

Carolina’s School Counseling program is an accelerated one in which students complete 60 hours of course work and a year-long field-based internship within 14 months.

“That means our students get into the field faster and can start helping students sooner,” Walter said. “It also means that because our graduates finish quicker, they get into jobs faster and can start earning incomes again.”

Students enter the program during the last week in May and finish by August of the following year. Students spend three days each week at their school placement for the entire academic year, giving them the opportunity to experience the entire range of work in a school counseling office.

Field experiences typically take place at schools within 30 miles of Chapel Hill. There, a practicing school counselor serves as an onsite supervisor and mentor.

Because the program is so intense, students typically are unable to work and have to go without an income while in the program, Walter said, which is why this new funding is so important.

The grant will also pay for students’ licensure exam, the Praxis, which carries a $120 fee.

And, it includes funds for each student to cover travel costs and materials so that they can present at the annual conference of the N.C. School Counselors Association.

Walter said she hoped that winning this grant and using them to support students will make it easier to win additional similar funding in the future.