Photo by Madelyn Knight
Perry Township schools received a $50,000 planning grant on Jan. 25 for providing the township with the opportunity to collaborate and produce ideas to improve the Guidance department. The township received the grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative. The program provided the opportunity for Indiana schools to apply for the planning grant, saying they understand how important counselors’ roles are in a student’s education. The township, as of now, is going to use the money to plan for the development of Guidance departments in grades 6-12.
“It’s about Southport High School,” Guidance director Julie Fierce said. “But it’s also about six other buildings, too.”
Emotional health can affect a student’s education in a positive or negative way. To ensure success, the grant is going to help this cause, but it is unclear what methods may be of use to the district.
To discuss what will be effective and within reasonable terms to present to Lilly, Fierce has met over 10 times with the Guidance director at PMHS, other directors at the middle schools, counselors at the academies and assistant superintendent Robert Bohannon.
Their goal is to have ideas that are effective enough to convince Lilly to provide the township with a larger grant for things that they think will improve the current state of the Guidance department. Lilly says that each applicant may request up to $100 per student in the township, but there is no clear number as to how many grants they will give out. The process of endowing grants will last three years, and 284 school districts will be applying. In order to be chosen, Perry Township will have to prove that “we are unique and going to use the money wisely,” said Fierce.
In the near future, there will be a committee formed consisting of parents, students and others to help brainstorm ideas as well. The ideas will be specifically tailored to help students in Guidance, whether that be a new program, another staff member or materials that will benefit the department for the students. If you have any suggestions on what programs, items etc. could be helpful to the Guidance department email Fierce at [email protected]. The deadline for the suggestions is Feb. 28.
English teacher Sam Hanley thinks one way to improve emotional health is to offer a class that will educate everyone on mental health, addressing it more proactively instead of reactively. He says that there are studies stating that there are early signs of mental illnesses, so being able to reach parents, or even the children directly to help them can be effective later in life. According to Hanley, contacting students, educating them and providing help in their high school career is good, but even before high school would be better.
Another problem that Hanley sees is how depression has always had a stigma attached to it. Depression is not an easy thing to tackle, so he does not know which way will be the most efficient in making a difference in students’ lives.
“I think that in high school we’re doing more reactionary things,” Hanley said. “Mental illness and mental health (are not) some of those things that we proactively address.”
The money currently is not being used to get such ideas that Hanley suggested in place, but to provide administration with ideas such as going to conferences, visiting other school districts that have similar demographics and eventually let them brainstorm, once again. Essentially the $50,000 is to inspire the administrations’ creative thinking and provide funding to find ideas to bring into their building.
Sept. 30 is when the township will know if they received the large grant to better the emotional health, graduation rates and overall happiness of each student.