Graduate students in the College of Education and Human Performance’s Counselor Education program are taking what they learn in courses and through research and applying it directly in the community. Specifically, students in the program are working with and in Hamilton Elementary School in Seminole County offering counseling and other assistive services to students and families from the community.
As part of their Advanced Practicum in Counseling course, six doctoral students visited Hamilton Elementary on Mondays throughout the fall semester offering scheduled counseling sessions. The mutual benefits of the partnership between Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) and UCF’s Counselor Education program are myriad. Graduate students at UCF gain the experience and training they need to become counselors in the future, but more than that they get to see directly the positive impact that their work can have on the lives of students and families.
“We have been seeing students in Hamilton Elementary School since September 8th,” says Coralis Solomon, doctoral student in Counselor Education and coordinator of the counseling services at Hamilton Elementary. “Since that time UCF counseling students have conducted more than 85 counseling sessions with students, and the results have been great. In the short amount of time we have been there, we are hearing positive feedback from parents about behavioral improvements and academic achievement in their kids. In addition, students seem to look forward to meeting with their counselor each Monday. This is a much needed service in the community for the students and their families, and I feel honored to be part of it.”
Hamilton Elementary is a Department of Education Title I school. The designation means that Hamilton Elementary, like all Title I schools, has been focused on meeting and exceeding the education needs of students in disadvantaged areas with a particular emphasis on closing the achievement gap. While classroom lessons, teacher training, and activities are critical parts of that process, services like those provided by UCF’s Counselor Education students can make a tremendous difference by helping students gain focus and increased confidence in their abilities.
Ms. Phillips, principal at Hamilton Elementary, gets to see firsthand the benefits and outcomes of the partnership with the UCF Counselor Education program. “The counseling partnership with UCF is an opportunity for students to have a dialogue about concerns that may be interfering with their learning. We are looking forward to positive results with their behaviors and academic growth thanks to the work of our staff and the graduate students in the College of Education and Human Performance.”
Additionally, the impact that UCF’s partnership is having at Hamilton Elementary will open new possibilities for helping students and communities meet their needs, raise achievement levels, and provide the best possible educational experience to students.
“The purpose of the partnership between SCPS (Hamilton Elementary School) and the UCF Counselor Education Program is fourfold,” Dr. Glenn Lambie explains. “First, we want to provide free counseling services to students and their families within their own community, promoting their academic and personal-social development; second, we are fostering and promoting endeavors between SCPS and the UCF College of Education and Human Performance; third, this opens opportunities to initiate research examining the impact of school-based counseling services on elementary students’ academic achievement and social-emotional development; and finally this partnership allows us to commence the development of a satellite UCF Community Counseling & Research Center (CCRC) at Hamilton Elementary School, to serve as a practicum counseling site for graduate-level counselor education students.”
As for the first semester’s work at Hamilton Elementary, Dr. Lambie has also been impressed with the results. “The initial semester of our partnership has progressed well for both partners (SCPS and UCF Counselor Education Program), and we plan to continue our efforts to support both SCPS students and their families while fostering the development of our graduate-level counselor education students,” he tells us. “We intend to expand the school-based counseling services to other high-need elementary schools in the Sanford area, assisting more SCPS students and families, and increasing research opportunities to benefit all involved parties.”
UCF’s Counselor Education program, ranked among the top ten such programs in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report, offers several tracks to students interested in providing counseling to individuals and communities. From school counseling to marriage, couple, and family therapy, the program combines the strengths of both a research-focused curriculum with the real-world benefits of practical experience and training.