Youngstown State University counseling and psychology graduate students are giving back to the community – and the children – by lending their skills to the Youngstown City School District.
The partnership between YSU and the city schools mutually benefits students from both institutions through YSU students’ internships. YSU students are preparing themselves for life after graduation by working in the schools, and city students are receiving cutting-edge coping skills to better their overall academic experiences.
Don Martin, YSU school counseling associate professor and program director, said the urban focus of the program meshed perfectly with Youngstown schools.
“We place an emphasis on children who are in poverty and prepare our students to understand what goes on with students who are poor,” he said.
Richard VanVoorhis, YSU school psychology associate professor and program director, said on behalf of the psychology and counseling students he is beyond thrilled with the experience they are getting in working in Youngstown schools.
“The partnership we have is a balance of our students being able to provide service to students in the Youngstown City School District and the fantastic mentorship and supervision the Youngstown city [schools] psychologists are able to give our students, as well,” he said.
“The city is doing an exceptional job with the given circumstances,” he said.
Lindsay DeVecchio, YSU school counseling intern, said being able to work in Youngstown schools really sets her up to jump into the counseling profession once she completes school.
“It’s really getting our feet wet,” she said. “I feel ready going into counseling.”
DeVecchio said the real-life, applicable experience enabled her to better understand what working with children with real problems is like.
“You see these students with problems and get to understand that it may be hard [for them] to concentrate on academics when there is so much going on at home,” she said.
That kind of experience is what VanVoorhis said makes students better professionals.
“It’s important for our students to be able to work well with people – to be able to consult with students and families and parents and teachers and administrators because we are all working as a team, collectively, to meet the needs of students,” he said.
A takeaway that city school students are getting from the partnership is renewed interest in education through “career trees.”
Julian Harris, YSU school counseling intern, said a lot of the work he’s been doing lately is helping students at Youngstown Early College map out their futures.
“It sparks something in them,” he said. “They can say, ‘This is what my future is going to look like and these are the steps I need to take to get there.’”
The career trees are something Tim Filipovich, YCSD chief of academics, accountability and assessment, said is part of a challenge the schools are tackling to “make school relevant.”
“When I was younger, I always said, ‘Why am I doing algebra? Why is this relevant to me?’ And now I’m an educator, and I see that,” he said. “We have to make school relevant so our students actually engage in school and make an attempt to do better.”