TWU’s $1 million mental health grant will allow students to counsel local schools.

Texas Woman’s University plans to provide $228,000 to pay graduate students who work for the North Texas charter school network to teach and provide advisory services.

This amount represents first year funding from a $1 million government grant that will fuel five years of school counseling research and practice.

“Funding will provide money for our students [to] receive a scholarship for their work,” said Lisa Grubbs, professor and consultant for the School Counselor Program in TWU’s Department of Human Development, Family Studies and Counseling. She applied for a grant from TWU professor Bonnie King, who also teaches in the counseling department.

“They will have a little more free time to work in schools,” Grubbs said. “This will provide some funding for consultants at Uplift. [Education] who will guide our students as compensation for their time.”

With federal funding channeled through Texas Senator John Cornyn’s bipartisan Safer Communities Act, TWU student counselors will work on Uplift Education’s Dallas and Fort Worth charter school campuses. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Education Mental Health Professionals Demonstration Program and was authorized by a bill written by Cornyn in response to the mass shootings.

“No parent should be afraid for the safety of their student when taking them to school, and no student should be afraid when they enter the classroom,” Kornin said in a statement. “In the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy, I am grateful that this funding is beginning to offer meaningful solutions for violence prevention, education for school staff and students, and hiring more mental health professionals in Texas schools.”

TWU’s counseling program offers a master’s degree, and Grubbs said the partnership with Uplift schools will enable students to receive training in school counseling and trauma counseling.

“Many schools serve many children,” Grubbs said, “and we are going to work with them.

“Our primary goal is to take on our student counselors who are trained in both clinical counseling and school counseling. We will give them the opportunity to provide additional services in schools or clinical semesters.”

The grant will also provide funding for consultants on Uplift campuses who will supervise TWU students as they work with students.

The partnership expands research and clinical opportunities for TWU students by placing them on campuses in North Texas, where students bring a diverse range of experiences to the school. The practice will focus on culturally supportive counseling as well as preparing students to work through the lens of trauma information.

“Cultural support means actually helping our students prepare to work with people from all walks of life in a way that they accept their origins and build it as an approach to people.

“When you practice culturally supportive counseling, it’s really about being able to work with people no matter where they’re from,” Grubbs said.

The grant lands just as educators across the country are sounding the alarm about the mental health crisis of American children and teens. Mental health providers have said schools, clinics and hospitals need more trained mental health professionals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has locked children at home to slow the spread of the disease. At the national and local levels, public health officials are reporting a surge in self-harm among children and adolescents.

“We are seeing an increase in behavior problems,” Grubbs said. “We are seeing an increase in mental health problems. So it just allows us to have more shoes in schools.”

Grubbs said there are many opportunities for TWU student counselors to get clinical practice for their degree. This partnership allows TWU students to connect with a specific group of students and see how students respond individually and collectively.

“Working with Uplift allows us to target our supervisor training in a deeper and more focused path that focuses on the specific needs of specific schools,” Grubbs said. “They will work to see how this targeted training and support can help reduce referrals and how it can help improve attendance for vocational students. We hope he will take the strong program we already have and make it even stronger.”

Kornin’s bill was signed last June. Grubbs and King applied for the grant in November. The process moved quickly, allowing TWU students to benefit from hands-on practice on campus over the next five years.

Grubbs said that TWU students who are paid through the program will bring their education and experience to their careers.

“I think by teaching many of our students to intervene in a way that supports the students in any school, the teachers, communities and families in those schools, they support that community as a whole and also have a positive impact on the entire Metroplex.” Grubbs said.

Work will take place in Uplift schools, she said, but TWU students will be doing their research and practice wherever they go.

“Perhaps we will focus on that and on our students who are going to rise through this particular training. But those conversations have spread to other students and other counselors who travel to other areas and work with students,” Grubbs said.

“They have these important conversations with each other and also carry this train forward. So I think when you look at it like a rock in a pond, it might be our rock, but these ripples are spreading across the Metroplex and can have a positive impact on all students in all of these districts.”

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