Medora receives school counseling grant

Medora Community School Corp. recently received a $230,000 Comprehensive School Counseling Grant from the Indiana Department of Education.

It was approved during Monday’s board of school trustees meeting.

In conjunction with National School Counseling Week last week, the Indiana Department of Education announced the recipients of $5 million in funding, which will support 26 school districts, charter schools and community partners to further develop and expand school counseling services and resources that will improve the well-being of students, achievements and college and career readiness.

“Thanks to Equitable Education Solutions, Dr. Michael Langevin and Cindy Hurst for helping us file for the grant at no extra cost to us,” Superintendent Roger Bane said.

Successful applications specified how grant funding would improve counselor-to-student ratios and establish or further strengthen partnerships with community organizations and employers.

Medora Junior-Senior High School Principal Kara Hunt said the Indiana Department of Education notifies school administrators when there are grants available to public schools.

On Feb. 3, she was notified Medora’s grant would be fully funded.

“I was very excited for our corporation to be awarded this grant as I believe it will greatly benefit students and staff,” Hunt said.

“School counselors are uniquely positioned to provide students with a number of important services, including guidance in completing all necessary courses and other graduation requirements, encouraging exploration of career and postsecondary opportunities and overall well-being support,” said Katie Jenner, Indiana secretary of education.

“The recipients of this grant understand the importance of comprehensive school counseling and the range of support our students need in order to reach their full potential,” she said. “With this additional funding, they will be better equipped to support the needs of their community and ultimately move the needle for their students.”

Hunt said with the grant, the school will hire a full-time licensed mental health therapist or clinical social worker to meet the students’ social, emotional and behavioral needs.

The responsibilities in this position will include assisting students with personal or social concerns that interfere with learning. The social worker also will help implement social-emotional learning lessons, counsel students through direct one-to-one services and support families by connecting with external providers and mental health resources.

This position will allow the current guidance counselor to focus more on academics, graduation pathways and postsecondary information.

When first establishing the Comprehensive School Counseling Grant, the Indiana Department of Education identified three key goals to further support student achievement, well-being and college and career readiness.

The goals are to expand the number of Indiana schools providing a comprehensive school counseling program, explicitly define the role of a school counselor in improving student outcomes as it pertains to the five student characteristics of Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed and create a network of progress monitoring to assess effectiveness and identify areas in need of additional local support and guidance.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunt said she has seen a surge of students in need of mental health support. With this grant and the hiring of a social worker, she hopes this will put less stress on families and educators as more students will be able to receive the help they need.

“We currently work with a mental health provider who visits the school and sees students who have been referred for mental health issues with the support of parents,” Hunt said. “However, the demand for care far outweighs the provider’s capacity to provide support, and students who need mental health care are put on a long waiting list, which is frustrating for parents and educators.”

With the grant being fully funded, Hunt said it will cover not only the salary and benefits of a full-time social worker for three years but allow the school to include resources for instructional staff. The school will use $30,000 to provide access to personal and confidential mental health services for staff.

“We are confident that our student body will be better served when we also take measures to ensure that our counselors, teachers and other staff members are mentally healthy,” she said.

Hunt said the well-being of the teachers and staff is important not only for the teachers themselves but for the students’ learning environments. With these mental health services impacting the teachers, Hunt said it will indirectly impact the students, as well.

“By addressing student mental health issues and connecting families to community resources, student learning and achievement should increase,” she said.

Funding for the Comprehensive School Counseling Grant is allocated as part of the state’s federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief plan. Through this grant, more than 117,000 students across 17 Indiana counties will be supported.