Pleasant Hill City Councilman and JFK University alum Dr. Michael Harris has given his alma mater a $30,000 matching grant to help expand counseling services provided by the university’s masters and doctoral students in city schools by covering the cost of counselors, according to a JFK news release.
“I’ve always believed in giving back to the people and places that have given so much to me,” Harris said in a prepared statement.
The grant is also reminiscent of one of Harris’ favorite quotes: “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.”
A doctor of optometry, Harris earned his JD at JFK University and is a legal consultant on healthcare issues, as well as a professor of Optometry at UC Berkeley.
In addition, the University recently received a federal grant of more than $450,000 to train mental health professionals from diverse cultures and backgrounds in order to increase mental health services and protect the health of children and communities.
JFK University and the Mt. Diablo school district, or MDUSD, began working together more than a decade ago, after school counseling positions were eliminated in 1989 due to budget cuts.
“Our partnership with MDUSD is truly a win-win,” said Gail Kinsley-Dame, Executive Director of the Community Counseling Center, in a news release. “MDUSD students get the help and support they need and JFK graduate students fulfill the mission and core values of the University while also earning the hours of supervised counseling required to complete their degree and obtain licensing.”
Mt. Diablo students and their families can also utilize the JFK University Community Counseling Center in Concord if they need support over the summer or would like family counseling. Students can be referred to the program by teachers or administrators, but need parent permission to participate in counseling.
“The program has been successful in helping students improve their self-esteem, classroom behavior, and school attendance,” said James Wogan, the district’s administrator of School Linked Services. “The strengths-based approach encourages children and helps them to feel connected to school.”
Students served by the program include some who may be dealing with issues such as homelessness and other stressful situations, or those who would like help making friends. The district is adding back counseling positions this school year, but JFK University students are continuing to help meet the strong demand for counseling services.
Celine DeFranco, a master’s student in counseling psychology at JFK University, served as a counselor at several district high schools through the partnership.
“The teen years are an important developmental time,” she said, in a prepared statement. “My work is about helping them build a solid foundation, fostering a relationship they can take outside to someone else. High school students want a safe place where someone will listen to them without judging them. I’m honored to work with them.”
More information about JFK University’s masters and doctoral programs in counseling and psychology is available at http://www.jfku.edu. Additional details about the Mt. Diablo school district’s School Linked Services is at http://demo.mdusd.org/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1400652641757
Do you think the Mt. Diablo school district should devote more of its budget to counselors?