ALEXANDRIA — Emily Burke taped a large sheet of white paper to a window and encouraged about 30 people to share their dreams for programming at Alexandria Community Schools.
“I want you to dream big and to see what you’ve already got, whether or not you get the grant,” said Burke, who is with the University of Indianapolis Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning.
The exercise, which took place Monday at Alexandria Community Center, was part of preparing an application toward a possible five-year grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment. The grant would go to improving counseling services for students in grades K-12.
Lilly Endowment and school officials hope programs that would be started or strengthened by the grants would boost academic, career and social and emotional success.
Anderson Community Schools, Anderson Preparatory Academy and Frankton-Lapel Community Schools also are among 284 districts statewide to receive the noncompetitive planning grants. Districts received between $8,300 and $50,000 for planning toward the application, which is due May 19, for a competitive implementation grant.
Officials at each district and their community partners spent about three months collecting and analyzing data, evaluating current counseling programs and identifying best practices. In addition, participants visited schools with promising programs.
Among those participating in Alexandria’s community meetings were representatives from Kleenco, Gaither Family Resources and the city’s fire department.
“We’re making this a real community activity,” said Alexandria Superintendent Dr. Melissa Brisco.
Mark Whybrew, operations manager at D1 Mold and Tool, said he appreciated having an opportunity to provide feedback about what is needed as young people enter the industry.
“We want to be a good member of the community and participate in activities that help benefit the community,” he said.
Whybrew said he believes the counseling initiative can have a positive impact on Alexandria’s workforce development.
“If we are able to take the knowledge we share here into the school system, it definitely is going to have a positive impact on the workforce and, therefore, the community,” he said.
Among the suggestions shared for strengthening Alexandria’s counseling programs are embedding someone from Ivy Tech or another postsecondary institution in the high school to help shepherd students through career exploration and planning. Other suggestions included effective internships and apprenticeships as well as workforce development.
Gina Brisco, representing Gaither Family Resources, said better planning should help students avoid situations where they earn a $32,000 salary but have $100,000 in student loan debt.
“Many times, we get employees who are so burdened by financial aid debt that they have to work two jobs, so they’re not as effective at the first job or the second job,” she said. “That’s part of the burden that businesses have because if it’s a burden on their back, it’s a burden on our back.”
Progress at Other Schools
Anderson Community Schools and Anderson Preparatory Academy are working with Fleck Education consulting firm in the preparation of their Lilly implementation grant applications. Frankton-Lapel Community Schools is working with the Indiana Youth Institute.
ACS Assistant Superintendent Ryan Glaze said his district’s committee consists of about 12 teachers, counselors and administrators.
He said ACS, where there is one counselor for each 1,000 students, needs to reduce the load by one-half.
“We also need additional funds to provide experiences to students in postsecondary environments,” he said. “We are also planning to implement a K-12 counseling plan using an evidence-based counseling initiative as an opportunity to quantify student data as it relates to counseling.”
Emily Berticelli, counselor at APA, said her school has many goals it hopes to realize through an implementation grant. They include increasing academic and socio-emotional interventions for at-risk students; increasing counselor availability for students in grades K-12; and increasing student, parent, teacher and community knowledge and participation in the school counseling program.
Frankton High School counselor Bryan Granger, who is in charge of Frankton-Lapel’s application, said his district is looking at implementing programs that touch elementary, middle and high schools. His team has traveled to Alabama and attended the National Peer Helper Conference in preparation for training about 24 students to become peer helpers.
“Even if we don’t get the big implementation grant, the planning grant has been helpful in getting us to learn what we have and what we need,” he said.