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UTEP Bolsters Support for Special Ed, School Counseling Students


A quartet of educators from UTEP’s Department of Educational Psychology and Special Services earned a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to finance the education of 48 individuals who want to become K-12 counselors or special education teachers, as well as to develop technology-enhanced curricula and methods for greater collaborations. The members of Project BLESSED are, from left, Carleton Brown, Beverley Argus-Calvo, Anjanette Todd and Kristopher Yeager. Brown and Yeager are the co-principal investigators. Photo: Ivan Pierre Aguirre / UTEP Marketing and Communications

The University of Texas at El Paso is strengthening its support for school counseling and special education graduate students thanks to a five-year $1.1 million grant from The U.S. Department of Education. The award enhances the University’s ability to help these students finance their education and gives them access to enhanced technical instruction and supervision support.

Project BLESSED (Bridging Leadership in Education: School Counselor and Special Educator Development) will boost the UTEP College of Education’s ability to train graduates who will serve K-12 public school students with disabilities who have high intensity mental health or social-emotional learning needs. This grant will augment existing departmental programs.

“This wonderful grant and Project BLESSED come at the exact right time,” said Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education. “The impact of COVID-19 has been profound for the well-being of children in El Paso, and this grant will enable school counseling and special education students to enhance their preparation and expertise, which in turn will empower their ability to serve K-12 students throughout our region.”

This grant’s co-principal investigators are Kristopher Yeager, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Carleton Brown, Ph.D., associate professor. Both are from the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Services. Department colleagues Beverley Argus-Calvo, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair, and Anjanette Todd, Ph.D., assistant professor, also are on the team.

Yeager said that the grant is especially important today because of COVID-19’s impact on the social-emotional well-being of K-12 students. According to the Texas Education Agency’s 2019-20 Texas Academic Performance Report, 20,443 students—or about 11.7% of registered students in the Region 19 Education Service Center—had a disability.

“Our goal is to provide professionals with the necessary tools to confront these ongoing challenges in the years to come,” Yeager said.

Brown said, “We are grateful for this opportunity, and pleased to say that this grant helps us meet the spirit of UTEP’s dedication to excellence, access, community engagement, and impact for our scholars and the community.”

 The grant is another step in the college’s overarching mission to provide students with the best programming possible to enhance the region’s well-being.

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