The Paula and Rick Short Endowed Fellowship in Education was established in the spring of 2023 and Department of Counseling and Educational Development doctoral student Alex Cammarano has been named the first recipient of the award.
Cammarano, an experienced school counselor, has developed the Learning to Be STRATEGIC model that outlines an eight-step training guide to assist school support personnel in the student reentry process following psychiatric hospitalization. She plans to store and automate surveys and provide online training to the model to school counselors across the nation.
Cammarano said, “My background is in both clinical and mental health and school counseling. I have worked in my entire professional career with a desire to help bridge the gap between the two fields. The Learning to Be STRATEGIC model is a result of two years dedicated to exploring and critiquing the student reentry literature, noting observations in my work as a school counselor, and consulting with professionals. Throughout my school counseling experience, I have worked with many students who have struggled with their mental health and were taken out of school to receive appropriate care. I noticed across districts that there was a lack of policies and procedures to support these students when they were out of school and when they returned.
“The reentry process is critical for students as they work towards meeting academic, social, and emotional demands, navigating new routines, and facing mental health stigma. However, there are a limited number of programs with a mission to address student reentry concerns. While some of these programs had promising results, they lacked the feasibility, funding, staff numbers, and community considerations to be implemented in all schools.”
Cammarano’s experience in rural schools led her to understand some of the specific challenges that exist in those districts, and she wanted to make sure her model would be just as practical to implement in those areas as in others that potentially had more resources available.
Receiving the support of the Short Fellowship will assist Cammarano in making this project a reality. “I believe this fellowship will serve as a starting point to test the effectiveness of the Learning to Be STRATEGIC training with school counselors,” said Cammarano. “Additionally, the fellowship mentorship will help me identify a technological platform to collect data on the training and find ways to promote the training to school districts in the future. The fellowship’s funding will allow me to attend conferences to spread awareness of student mental health and offer an incentive to participants in my initial research of the training’s effectiveness. This fellowship will support my research aspirations to continue to work with school districts to identify equitable innovations that benefit all stakeholders and foster school success.”
The Paula and Rick Short Endowed Fellowship in Education was created to allow master’s or doctoral students in the School of Education to pursue an innovation project that addresses a real-world problem of practice in education. The award will be presented on an annual basis and will provide funds that may be used to support innovation efforts. Recipients of the award will work closely with the School of Education’s Impact Through Innovation (ITI) program which will lend support to the development and implementation of their ideas.
Dr. Scott Young, who leads ITI, said Cammarano’s application for the fellowship was selected because, “Alex’s submission outlined a thoughtful plan to test a model and create a program that will help school counselors and personnel create an intentional plan for helping a student reintegrate into their school following a psychiatric hospitalization. Moreover, she plans to train school personnel to execute her program and enhance the impact of the model she has developed. Her work stands to make a positive real-world impact on students.”
Being selected as the initial recipient of the Short Fellowship is meaningful to Cammarano who said, “I am extremely honored to be the first recipient of the Paula and Rick Short Endowed Fellowship in Education and deeply appreciative of this opportunity to fund my research. One of my main research goals is to give back to the education and school counseling communities. I am excited to work with Impact Through Innovation and the Office of Research, Discovery, and Innovation to help make a difference in student mental health.”
Her experiences at UNC Greensboro have also had an impact on the work that Cammarano is doing. Through her program she has been able to connect with fellow professionals who share her vision and goals for the field of counselor education. Her cohort of fellow students have developed into her “second family.”
Cammarano said, “I chose UNCG because of the liveliness of the Greensboro community, the opportunities offered in my doctoral program, and the chance to be closer to my family in Virginia. Out of all the places I considered to further my education, UNCG felt the most like home.”