GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – The role of school counselors has changed over the years. Not only do they help students with their academics, but they also support students’ social and emotional needs.

“School counselors are oftentimes the first line of defense when a child is struggling,” said Amanda Rumsey, an Assistant Professor for Clemson University’s College of Education.

Greenville County Schools and Clemson University are joining forces to bring more counselors into the classroom. A $5.8 million grant from the U. S. Department of Education will be used to allow Greenville County School employees to earn their graduate degree at Clemson University so they can become school counselors. 

“We’re really hopeful with this grant that we can get more non-traditional school counselors in our building,” said Elizabeth House, the Director of School Counseling Services for Greenville County Schools.

“This gives them an opportunity for growth and to stay within the school district they’re in,” added Rumsey. “It also gives them an opportunity to work within a population they maybe have formed relationships with.”

48 employees will be selected for the program over the next five years. Candidates can choose to train as school counselors or mental health counselors. 

“Children are very vulnerable,” explained Rumsey. “The amount of mental health issues and suicide have risen since we’ve come out of COVID. Knowing about these concerns – whether it be anxiety, depression, social concerns or more – school counselors, in particular, are there, get to know the students and can help to support those students.”

The program also aims to increase diversity in schools. The team leading this project said they are looking for candidates who can represent the students and communities they will serve.

“One thing that’s really great about having that school counselor is to ensure that we have a counselor that is from that community, that can give back to their community and can relate to our students,” said House.

While training, the student counselors will work in schools with students who come from low-income homes.

“We have seen and research shows that the higher numbers and percentages of students you have who come from low-income backgrounds, the higher the needs are and support is necessary there,” explained Rumsey.

The first group of student counselors will begin classes at Clemson University this summer.