Program in Occupational Therapy receives $1.1 million grant

New program supports students serving high-intensity-need schoolchildren

by Michele Berhorst • September 27, 2023

The School-Based Scholars Program team (left to right): Taff, DeBourge, Bricker and Grajo.

The Program in Occupational Therapy was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Special Education – Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities Program. The program provides grants to institutions of higher education and private nonprofit organizations to prepare personnel in early intervention, special education and related services to be successful and skilled in serving children with disabilities.

“The grant will fund the School-Based Scholars Program, designed to improve the recruitment and retention of diverse occupational therapy students while increasing competencies to serve children with high-intensity needs in school-based settings,” says Jessie Bricker, OTD, OTR/L, principal investigator and project director. “The long-term goal is to build workforce capacity in school-based and mental health practice.”

The program will provide tuition remission to up to five scholars per year, who will take specific courses supporting career development and academic performance while they work with community partner schools serving marginalized K-12 students. Scholars who receive funding agree to work in special education or related services for two years for each year of support they receive. Data will be collected on scholars to measure program success and report outcomes until their service obligations are fulfilled or they are referred for repayment of funding received.

Faculty and staff with expertise in inclusive teaching and school-based practice will design and implement the program in three phases: planning, implementation and long-term integration over the five-year grant period. The Program team includes Bricker; Jenny DeBourge, MS, OTR/L (administrative and student support); Lenin Grajo, PhD, OTR/L (curriculum development, admissions and recruitment); and Steve Taff, PhD, OTR/L (development of diverse scholars support structures and competency requirements).

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