Three-year grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will support program integration to activate communities, expand The Promise and build hope for widespread postsecondary achievement.

Indianapolis, IN — The Indiana Youth Institute is excited to share the news that Promise Indiana and its talented staff will be joining our organization.

Since 2003, we have worked throughout Indiana to build college and career pathways. The addition of Promise Indiana adds a network of communities that are focused on building a culture that encourages students to pursue higher education. To date, more than 13,000 elementary students around the state have started a CollegeChoice 529 direct savings account through The Promise, with more than $10 million in total savings for postsecondary education.

“Our schools and communities have told us loud and clear that college and career readiness needs to begin earlier –  ideally in elementary school. Promise Indiana is an innovative and successful program that builds future identity from a young age. We are delighted to add this thriving program to our existing services,” said Tami Silverman, President and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.

As the number of local Promise initiatives has grown, so too has interest from other communities around the state. Through Lilly Endowment’s support, IYI will lead the activation of 18 new Promise Indiana communities during the next three years. “Communities are searching for strategies to help students succeed in the classroom and in life. The Promise model is community-centric and designed to help students shape identity and build hope for their future,” said Clint Kugler, Co-Founder of Promise Indiana.

The transition will begin immediately. A formal launch is planned for IYI’s Kids Count Conference on November 27 and 28, 2018. We expect the integration to be completed by early 2019.

With support from the Indiana Education Savings Authority and Lilly Endowment, Promise Indiana began its operations in 2013, as part of the Wabash County YMCA, which has served as the home and backbone organization for the Wabash County Promise. Twenty-four additional communities have launched local initiatives in the five years since the Wabash County effort began.

Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) has been focused on college and career for 15 years, with a track record of launching successful initiatives, including Trip To College Alerts and the annual College and Career Conference.  Founded in 1988, IYI is a statewide organization that champions kids and strengthens communities through services and tools that focus on professional education, organizational capacity building, data and impact solutions, and statewide engagement and advocacy. IYI places an emphasis on increasing P–16 student success including graduation rates and postsecondary planning, achievement, and attainment.

A sophomore struggling academically thrives after being guided to a drafting course available at his school. Fifth graders throughout a district learn the connection between school and work through an annual BizTown event. And 21st Century Scholars attend an afterschool seminar where they get hands-on training in the Scholar Success Program. These are just some examples of school counselors helping students thrive. Yet many Indiana students are at a critical disadvantage—there is not enough counseling time to reach every student who needs it.

The Center for Education Statistics ranked Indiana 42nd in the nation for having one counselor for every 541 students in 2013. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio. But Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) data shows that for every 619 students, Indiana has just one licensed counselor.

This is not only a problem on the state level. Ratios vary greatly from county to county. The IDOE data shows Washington County has the lowest student-to-licensed counselor ratio in the state, with one licensed counselor for every 351 public or charter school students. Crawford County has the highest county ratio at 1,606:1. However, several districts around the state, especially charter schools, have no licensed counselors on staff.

ASCA identifies three essential areas where counselors can support student success: academic performance, college and career preparation and social/emotional development. Many schools report success with their academic counseling efforts, which can cover traditional counseling activities such as course selection or study skills, but the highest need lies in the areas of college and career preparation and social/emotional issues.

For example, school counselors assist students with family issues such as divorce and deaths of loved ones, managing emotions, resolving conflict, and learning interpersonal skills. Counselors help students with bullying, drug abuse and mental health issues in an era when nearly one in five Indiana high schools students have considered suicide — tied for the third highest rate in a national survey.

Dr. Michele Moore, superintendent for the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, says the number of students needing assistance with social/emotional issues continues to increase. Her district’s eight licensed counselors are “putting out brush fires that have to be immediately taken care of.” In recent years, counselors have seen more students dealing with parents who are incarcerated or addicted to heroin/opioids. It is easy to understand how student achievement and success can be sidetracked by these complicated issues. School counselors are uniquely trained and qualified to help students cope with these situations.

School counselors know that student academic and social/emotional well-being are interconnected and critical to long-term achievement. Counselors play a key role in career development, helping students at every education level understand the link between school and work opportunities, while also guiding students toward college and career transitions.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development reports that Indiana will need to fill one million jobs by 2025. Mark Friedmeyer, president of the Indiana School Counselors Association, says counselors need to start the career readiness process at the elementary and middle school levels. “If they wait until they get to high school to learn about that then that may be too late,” he says.

A comprehensive counseling approach provides adequate time for counselors to address all three critical areas with all of the students they serve. Recognizing the increasingly complex challenges schools and students face, a groundbreaking new effort from Lilly Endowment Inc. will address the academic, college and career, and social-emotional needs of students. Through grants to public school districts and charter schools, the Endowment’s new five-year, $30 million initiative will help schools better meet students’ needs for comprehensive school counseling.

This grant is both an exceptional opportunity and a sizeable challenge. That’s why the Indiana Youth Institute was asked to assist school districts with the planning, implementation, evaluation and sustainability of their initiatives. Information on available services can be found at www.iyi.org/counselinginitiati… and by calling 855-244-7175. Once again, we are reminded that student well-being and achievement is a shared responsibility of schools, families and the community.

(Tami Silverman is the president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. To provide feedback on the column, she may be reached at iyi@iyi.org or on Twitter at @Tami_IYI)