Grants available to help schools improve counseling

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — As supervisor of the guidance counselors at Harrison High School, Barbara List is passionate about student success.

“I love being able to impact kids in a positive way,” she said.

Counselors not only help students plan for their future but cope with social and emotional issues like bullying and family problems at home.

The problem is – youth advocates say there aren’t enough of them in Indiana.

The Indiana Youth Institute cited government numbers that show there’s one licensed counselor for every 541 students.

For every counselor, there are 552 students in Tippecanoe County Schools, 553 students in Lafayette and 569 in the West Lafayette district.

The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250-to-1 student-to-counselor ratio.

To improve the picture and better serve students, the Lilly Endowment, Inc. has begun a project to encourage schools to further explore how they can help students prepare for academic, career and personal success.

The Indianapolis-based foundation says its Comprehensive Counseling Initiative for Indiana K-12 students may allocate up to $30 million, depending on the proposals it receives.

The endowment says it will provide planning grants ranging from $30,000 to $50,000, depending on student enrollment. It then will award competitive implementation grants that can be used over four years in which public and charter schools can request up to $100 per student.

It invites schools to submit proposals to help them learn the best practices for counseling programs from around the state and nation, in order to evaluate its current counseling programs and to expand and improve those programs.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for schools to think differently and try something new,” said Charlie Geier, director of evaluation for the Indiana Youth Institute — which is partnering with Lilly to help spread the word and assist schools in the application process.

Geier said grants are available partly for schools to evaluate best practices around the country, perhaps add counselors and/or provide professional learning opportunities for staff.

“And that professional learning can drive certain reforms,” said Geier. “Another way would be to bring on additional counselors. Another way would be for school districts to think about building capacity by licensing maybe current staff to become a counselor.”

List said the current ratio at Harrison High School is manageable, but added she’s looking forward to exploring new ways to look at the existing program.

“All of us try to find new ways to do things more efficiently,” she said. “And I think coming together with other schools and other stakeholders in the community to look at how we do things and see how we can do them more creatively – maybe involving other personnel or involving community members – I think is a good thing.”