By Mark Ambrogi
For Zionsville Community Schools, the timing was perfect.
The district has received a $50,000 Lilly Endowment Counseling Initiative Planning Grant. The grant was established to give opportunities to strengthen Indiana K-12 counseling in schools and to implement best practices to prepare students for academic, career and personal success. Studies show that students in Indiana struggle with mental health issues at a higher rate than those in most other states.
“What was nice for us in Zionsville is that we had already begun asking a lot of these questions and examining it as part of the Strong in Every Way initiative,” ZCS Chief Academic Officer Jennny Froehle said. “When this Lilly initiative arrived on the scene, it was a perfect convergence of what we had already been working on in our own organization and community foundation that is dedicating its resources to supporting schools that want to do this. So it was a perfect convergence of something that was already a huge focus for Zionsville Community Schools and some of the work had already been done internally in starting to talk about where are the areas that we can support students and build their assets and strengths further.”
Froehle said the grant will allow ZCS to spend the next three-and-a-half months in deeper planning for an implementation proposal that they would make for a larger grant from Lilly. The proposal is due by May 19. That grant would cover funding for the next four-and-a-half years. Froehle said the district would learn by September if it was a successful applicant for the competitive grant.
“We would be applying for as much as $700,000,” Froehle said.
The grant would be for elevating counseling support for students in areas such as social-emotional strengths, stress management and college/career readiness.
“So we would have funding from Lilly to implement the things that are in that proposal,” Froehle said. “The planning grant is allowing the district to pay for technical assistance from experts, attendance at meetings and seminars where evidence-based innovative practices of school counseling are being discussed, needs assessment in our community with our students, parents, counseling staff and community to find out more where we would want to target those efforts to support students.”
The district is partnering with strategic planning experts from the Indiana Youth Institute.
“We’re working on things like assessing the strengths of our current emotional support for students,” Froehle said. “We’re working with experts to evaluate our current programs and the strengths and needs and prioritize challenges.”