A $2.1 Million Investment benefiting all HSE Students

By now you may have heard the wonderful news that the Lilly Endowment has awarded Hamilton Southeastern Schools a generous $2.1 million grant as part of the comprehensive counseling initiative for Indiana K-12 students.  This award is the largest competitive grant received in Hamilton Southeastern School’s history.  HSE Schools is proud to be “one of the 52 public school corporations and five charter schools in Indiana selected to implement plans to help meet the complex academic, college, career, and social and emotional counseling needs of students” (Lilly Endowment Press Release 2017).  Below are some additional details and frequently asked questions.hseguid

Q1. How was the Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation (HSSF) involved in the grant process? In late 2016, the HSSF applied for and secured a non-competitive Lilly Endowment planning grant for $50,000.  This restricted fund allowed Hamilton Southeastern Schools to conduct a needs assessment process reviewing both current practices in school counseling and researching innovative models for guidance.  During this planning period, a broad-based advisory team comprised of school counselors, administrators, and community leaders was convened to evaluate areas of strength, areas of opportunities, and goals of our school counseling services.  This advisory team conducted a survey of current school counseling practices, a time study, and a review of community trends.  The survey received nearly 14,000 responses from core stakeholders including students, parents, and faculty members.  Based on the information collected, HSSF led the grant writing effort that ultimately submitted a successful proposal to Lilly Endowment for $2.1 million.

Q2. I thought the HSE Foundation gave out grants and scholarships? The mission of HSSF is to enhance educational opportunities, inspire excellence and engage the community to foster a legacy of achievement.  One way we achieve that mission is by offering innovation grant funding to educators along with administering more than 40 annual scholarships.  Another way we achieve our mission is by leveraging capacity for HSE Schools through relationship building and technical assistance.  We accomplish capacity building through a myriad of activities like volunteer recruitment, grant writing, public speaking, and providing or coordinating professional development.  HSSF not only led grant writing efforts for both the Lilly Endowment Comprehensive Counseling planning and implementation grants, but we also aid individual educators each year in creating grant application to community supporters such as FORUM Credit Union, DJ Angus, and Lowe’s Toolbox.

Q3. So why is this grant so important to HSE, its students and the community?  At its core this is a student success grant.  School counselors are an integral part of student support in all HSE Schools.  This grant includes elements that will boost social-emotion learning, academic advising, and college and career readiness for all students.  The strength of this grant is that it rallies all adults to be invested in the success and guidance of students.  This includes not only school counselors, but also teachers, administrators, and parents.  The grant also includes the concepts of experiential learning and community as a classroom so that students can apply learning that in happening in schools to real-life, hands-on scenarios in our community.

Q4. I’m surprised HSE Schools were eligible for a grant of this size. The Lilly Endowment Comprehensive Counseling grant allowed school districts to apply for funds up to $100 per student enrolled.  Since Hamilton Southeastern Schools is the fourth largest school district in the state of Indiana, our schools were eligible to apply for a substantial amount of funding support.  Innovative, outside-of-box ideas and potential for student impact also played a role in the competitive process.

Additionally, the community needs assessment revealed that pressures facing modern students such as anxiety and the complex demands on school counselors are not defined by zip code.  Creating a sense of belonging and providing individual attention to students in all districts is important, but can be especially critical in large districts such as HSE.

Q5. Why not hire 10, 50, or 100 more school counselors to serve more students? While reducing student to counselor ratios is an attractive idea, HSE Schools would not be able to sustain that increased cost after the grant expired.  This would have resulted in a temporary boost of support that would be eliminated after the funds were depleted, not a transformative, long-term impact for students.  Additionally, while the student to counselor ratio at HSE is well above best practice recommendations, our ratios are slightly below the state average.

Q6. What happens after the grant ends? This is a one-time, four-year grant award.  However, the Lilly Endowment thoughtfully designed the parameters award with sustainability in mind.  That means, the benefits to students will continue long after the grant award has expired.

Q7. I’m excited, is there a chance I can be involved? Absolutely!  One of the exciting elements of this grant is to mobilize every adult to contribute to the guidance of students.  There will be many opportunities to get involved from serving on advisory teams to simply sharing details on social media.  Watch local media and school communication channels for opportunities to serve soon and throughout the duration of the grant!  HSSF also works with an army of local volunteers.  Opportunities include committee work, Board of Directors, Advisory Council, project or office volunteers, student service hours, and internships.

Q8. What other initiatives support this work?  The impact of this grant cannot be overstated.  School counseling addresses social emotional learning, mental health, academic advising, and college/career readiness.  Several other initiatives supported by the Foundation are well aligned with this effort including mindfulness in schools, scholarships, and a wide-assortment of hands of learning opportunities like Project Lead the Way.  For more information on the work of the Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation visit us online at hsefoundation.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIN.  You can also register here for monthly Connections updates featuring a success story in our school created by generous donors and volunteers.

Q9. What are other groups saying about this award?