Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

UCSB grant for JEDI Project will train next generation of school psychologists

 UCSB graduate students training to become school psychologists spend time working in local K-12 schools.
George Yatchisin/UCSB
UCSB graduate students training to become school psychologists spend time working in local K-12 schools.

UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education received a $5.3 million grant from the Department of Education to train more school psychologists at the graduate and PhD levels. Called the JEDI Project – for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the funding supports about 50 additional students over the next five years.

“Having this training grant really allows many of our students to reduce the financial burden of going to graduate school and also increases the diversity within our program,” said Erin Dowdy, UCSB professor of counseling, clinical, and school psychology.

Dowdy said there is a pressing need for school psychologists from diverse backgrounds to better serve K-12 students. For example, she said more bilingual mental health providers are urgently needed on the Central Coast.

“We are working on bringing in quite a few students that are bilingual for our local communities, that’s Spanish and English generally, and training them to be proficient bilingual school psychologists,” she said.

The JEDI scholars will do much of their training at local K-12 schools identified as high-need due to absenteeism, homelessness, and other socio-economic disadvantages.

“Our partners are Santa Maria-Bonita School District, Lompoc Unified School District, Carpinteria Unified School District, and also Santa Barbara County SELPA, which is a Special Education Local Plan Area,” Dowdy said.

Recent national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to a worsening mental health crisis among young people, and Dowdy said there are currently not enough school psychologists to serve the number of students.

She said the grant for the JEDI Project enables UCSB to train more mental health professionals who can make a difference in K-12 schools.

“What we’re hoping to do is to put in place some really strong prevention and early intervention systems, so that students don’t get to these crisis levels,” Dowdy said.

The first cohort of JEDI scholars begins their training at UCSB in the fall.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.