The Illinois Conference of the Adventist Church is one of several educational entities across the U.S. state of Illinois to receive a share of grant funds recently that support students’ and educators’ emotional and mental health needs.
The Illinois Conference Education Department’s initial application for a Community Partnership Grant was a request for US$100,000 to continue offering the services of a school psychologist for the next two years. To the department leaders’ surprise, they were awarded US$635,000 to be used over the course of the next two years.
“I am so happy that, because of this funding, we can continue to offer mental health services with a school psychologist,” Illinois Conference education superintendent Lori Aguilera said, “and that I can continue to provide special education services to all the students in the Illinois Conference.”
The grant was funded through the U.S. federal government’s American Rescue Plan for COVID-19 relief, and its purpose is to reduce stress and address students’ emotional and mental health as it relates to the pandemic and all the school disruptions.
“What a blessing!” Illinois Conference president Ron Aguilera said, “to support our Illinois Conference schools in the areas of mental health, special education, and other support like aides and classroom materials.”
Plans to Use the Funds
Illinois Conference associate superintendent Katrina Baun said teachers are already planning how to utilize these funds, which could include additional teaching staff, teacher aides, playground equipment, outdoor classrooms, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) labs, gardening/agricultural education, transportation for field trips, and even gym memberships for all the teachers. “As you can see, almost anything to reduce the stress for teachers and students can be obtained with this grant,” she said.
Baun said that they’re continuing to evaluate use of the funds but in the meantime they’re grateful for God’s provisions. “These funds will be a great blessing to our teachers and students here in the Illinois Conference.”
Illinois Conference is a recognized leader is seeking grants to strengthen its mission. Last year, Lake Union Herald reported on an Illinois program that provides a school psychologist for all its schools. Lake Union education director Linda Fuchs invited Lori Aguilera to conduct a seminar on grant-writing tips for other Lake Union superintendents. In speaking about the grant, Fuchs said, “I am happy to see the urgent needs of our children addressed, and ways in which we can continue to provide a supportive environment for our students’ learning and well-being.”
Illinois Conference has nine Seventh-day Adventist schools across the state, several of them in the Chicago area, including Downers Grove Adventist School and Hinsdale Adventist School. In total it has 447 students.