Tobacco Commission grant assists in Radford University school counselor program expansion

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Representatives from Radford University, the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center pause to mark a significant grant to further education in Abingdon.

Radford University has received a Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission grant that enables the expansion of its school counselor program. With the assistance of the $325,000 grant, the university will begin offering a master’s degree program in school counseling at the Southwest Higher Education Center in Abingdon with the spring 2020 semester.

RU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. said, “I want to express my sincere and lasting appreciation to the tobacco commission for their generous and worthwhile investment in Radford University, our programs, our students and our region.  Radford University is proud to serve as a critical partner in meeting the emerging needs of our local communities and enhancing the Appalachian region in which we live, learn and work.  The expansion of our school counseling graduate program in Abingdon will have an immediate impact on the participating students and a lasting impact on the broader region.”

The tobacco commission was created under the Code of Virginia in 1999 to revitalize, grow and diversify the economy of the 34 counties and six cities in Virginia’s tobacco-producing region. It accomplishes this goal through several grant programs, each with specific objectives and outcome metrics. The Competitive Education Program, through which the grant was provided, focuses on ways to increase the education and skill levels of the region’s labor pools as a method to attract and retain employers.

Tobacco Commission Chairman and Delegate Terry Kilgore said, “The tobacco commission is pleased to be able to support both our rural communities and one of our public universities with this grant. Well-trained school counselors are a vital part of the mix when it comes to making sure our kids can reach their full potential. This new program that Radford University is establishing here in Abingdon at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center will help us ensure that every child has access to the resources they need.”

The Radford University school counselor program is designed to prepare highly-trained and competent counselors to serve in schools and promote the development of K-12 students, including those from culturally and economically diverse geographic areas.  The 48-credit hour program is aligned with national standards and will be available at the Higher Education Center through the Department of Counselor Education within Radford University’s College of Education and Human Development.

The first cohort, which will begin taking courses in January, will consist of 20 to 24 students. The program typically spans seven semesters when enrolled in courses part-time during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Courses are completed in a specific sequence with cohort colleagues.

To obtain licensure as a Virginia school counselor, candidates must have a master’s degree in counseling from a state-approved program. The Radford University school counseling concentration prepares students for state licensure as school counselors in Virginia and similar state. It is accredited through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Graduates of the Radford program will be prepared to be licensed in Virginia at the K-12 grade levels.

The Radford school counselor program in Abingdon was developed to meet the growing need of school counselors and a school counselor training program in Southwest Virginia, said Carrie Sanders, Pan assistant professor in the university’s Department of Counselor Education.  Prime candidates to enroll in the master’s program are “teachers who desire to make a change,” Sanders said, from the classroom setting to a role as a counselor.