SAN ANGELO, Texas — Angelo State University has formed a collaborative partnership with Texas Education Service CenterRegion 15 for a $2.3 million grant-funded program. The program is aimed to increase the number of public school counselors employed in rural school districts within Region 15.

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ASU’s Master of Science in Professional School Counseling program is partnering with ESC Region 15 on the “Rural West Texas Mental Health Educational Learning Partnership” using the grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to a release from the university, in addition to providing counselors for rural school districts, HELP is also designed to increase the training and professional development opportunities for school counselors and other mental health professionals already employed in the region.

There will be a specialized focus on rural West Texas areas that lack access to mental health services and personnel.

State mandates and increasing enrollment, with minimal or no increase in state funding, have made it problematic for rural school districts to employ adequate student services personnel. That leads to various critical issues, including:

  • High student-to-counselor ratios
  • Lack of supervision and mentoring in crises situations
  • Lack of training and professional development for prevention, intervention and after-care

The HELP project will address these issues by providing additional school counselors, as well as expanding the services offered through ESC Region 15. The HELP steering committee includes:

  • Dr. Casey Callahan, executive director, ESC Region 15
  • Dr. Lesley Casarez, educational counseling program director, ASU
  • Dr. Raelye Self, educational leadership program coordinator, ASU
  • Dr. Audrey Heron, assistant professor, educational counseling, ASU
  • Dr. Tia Agan, assistant professor, educational leadership, ASU
  • Carol Stevens, education specialist counselor, ESC Region 15

ESC Region 15 is based in San Angelo and serves 43 West Texas public school districts. ASU’s M.S. in professional school counseling degree program prepares graduates to take the Texas Examination of Educator Standards (TExES) for the professional certificate for school counselors.