LPS awarded federal grant to fund additional elementary counselors
Lincoln Public Schools is increasing support for its youngest scholars. The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded LPS a $7 million School-Based Mental Health Services Grant over five years, which will help add a full-time counselor to every elementary school.
“Never has it been more crucial that elementary students in particular have access to a professional with knowledge and expertise on mental health issues and strategies to mitigate those issues,” LPS Federal Program Director Linda Hix said.
Elementary school counselors lead the implementation of social-emotional skill development for students, allowing them to develop healthy identities and manage emotions. They also help teach other key life skills like feeling and showing empathy for others and making responsible and caring decisions.
“School counselors have a unique skill set. School counselors are educators that serve to help students learn skills that can help them be successful in school and beyond,” Lori Hemmett said. Hemmett is the supervisor for school counselors and school social workers.
“School counselors in elementary schools are critical to the development of a schoolwide culture that is both safe and caring and encourages academic excellence,” Hix added.
Currently, only 30 of the 40 LPS elementary schools have full-time counselors. Riley is one of those 30 schools. Rachel George serves as the school counselor, and acts as a liaison between students, teachers and families to help kids thrive in and out of the classroom.
“I am able to focus on feelings and emotions in all areas of our building. We are now using a common language, which makes social and emotional learning equitable to all students. Our goal is to help students be able to manage and regulate their big feelings,” George added.
“Now that we’ve had a full-time, on-site counselor for two years, I can’t imagine how we did things without one. Our counselor works so well with the rest of our staff to focus on the whole child,” Riley principal Jeff Bjorkman said.
Published: March 16, 2023, Updated: March 16, 2023