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Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

University of Dayton receives grant to prepare school psychologists from southern Ohio

The University of Dayton school psychology program was awarded a $920,000 grant to help recruit and train graduate students from southern Ohio to provide school-based mental health services in their communities’ underserved school districts.

The program is targeting six counties in southern Ohio, a mostly rural region, because of their high rate of youth mental health needs, said Elana Bernstein, assistant professor of school psychology and program coordinator. School psychologists in those counties often face caseloads double the state recommendation; and increasing rates of disability, opioid use, kinship and foster care placements, poverty and limited economic development all serve as aggravating factors on community members' mental health.

"This grant will help us prepare practitioners to address the youth mental health crisis in our nation, but, in particular, in some of our highest needs schools in southern Ohio, where it is historically and consistently difficult to recruit and retain practitioners," Bernstein said. "The program will create new opportunities to train future school psychologists from underserved communities who may have financial and logistical barriers preventing them from enrolling in a graduate program, and who will return to their communities to serve."

The five-year, $921,671 grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The funding will support a partnership with Adams County Ohio Valley Local School District, where 64% of students live in poverty, to provide experiential learning opportunities for UD students while helping alleviate the strain on the district's school psychologists.

"School-aged students across the nation are suffering from teacher and school psychologist shortages, and this grant can help relieve some of that pressure," said Ali Carr-Chellman, dean of the School of Education and Health Sciences. "Our mission at the University and our unit is deeply rooted in community and service, and we are so grateful for this new opportunity to support the needs of our southern Ohio communities."

Caitlyn Hanes is finishing up her final semester in the program and will work for South Central Ohio Educational Service Center in the fall. She grew up in South Webster, Ohio, where her family has lived for generations, and has seen the impact of socioeconomic disparities on her community. Hanes believes removing the financial barriers for prospective students with this grant will help a lot of people and bring necessary resources back to their communities.

"Unless you're from a rural area, you really don't have a need to go there and work," Hanes said. "I'm from Appalachia; I'm tied here. That's why I want to be working in southern Ohio — I want to serve in a different role than a teacher or principal, but still impact students. When I realized nobody goes to rural areas to work in these roles, I knew I was needed."

The University's school psychology program has been successful in preparing graduate students with a 100% graduate assistantship and job placement rates after graduation. It is the closest program geographically to the southern Ohio region, and the only program in Ohio with a part-time option approved by the National Association of School Psychologists offering evening classes and internship placement within 30 miles of the student's residence.

"I feel so lucky, I couldn't imagine having ended up somewhere else," Hanes said. "The reason I chose UD was when I came for the interview day after being accepted, it was so welcoming. The students seemed to like each other and weren't in competition, the professors had a collegial spirit, and that made me feel really welcome. Coming from a rural area, it wasn't like there were options close to me, and so I went with what felt right and UD was it."

Learn more about the program, requirements and how to apply here.


News and Communications Staff