Future school counselors are getting real world experience to prepare for their careers thanks to a partnership between UGA and Rutland Academy, Northeast Georgia’s educational and therapeutic school in Clarke County.

One day a week graduate students in Associate Professor of Counselor Education Jolie Daigle’s service-learning class meet at Rutland, in west Athens, to work with students with emotional/behavioral disabilities who haven’t been successful in traditional school settings. The UGA students offer social skills training to the students, providing counseling through the classroom.

After the class time with the Rutland students, the UGA students meet with Daigle for their academic training and to review cases.

“Just having that experience of being able to face these different challenges is what will make us really good counselors in the future, because we are getting a whole different experience than most programs would offer their masters students.” said Zyra Beaty, 23, a first-year master of education student from Atlanta

Students in grades K through 12 are referred to Rutland because they have emotional or behavioral disabilities that interfere with their academic progress.

The academic curriculum follows Georgia Performance Standards, with positive therapeutic supports to help students manage their behavior. The UGA students reinforce the social skills the students are learning at Rutland through planned lessons, role-playing activities, and individual support.

Working with the Rutland students helps the future school counselors learn how to develop relationships with students and understand the triggers of their behavior. Over time they get to know the students individually and can better assess—and address—the student’s needs.

“We’re learning a little bit more about them as people,” said Hillary Turner, 24, a first year master of education student from Canton, Ga. “You know, what are they coming in with? What are they leaving with here? We’re able to see them as a whole person and to take note of that and learn how to apply classroom guidance.”

Since 2013, 36 UGA students have participated in the service-learning program at Rutland Academy. Prior to the partnership, Rutland Academy did not have school counselors because of limited funding.

“It’s been great. It’s an extra set of eyes, hands and support for both the teacher as well as the student in the classroom,” Rutland Academy Director Najma Hunter said.

Rutland Academy is part of the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS). There are 24 GNETS programs in the state.

Learn more about GNETS at www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Special-Education-Services/Pages/Georgia-Network-for-Special-Education-and-Supports.aspx

Service-learning at the University of Georgia is the application of academic skills and knowledge to address a community need, issue, or problem and to enhance student learning. During the 2013-14 academic year, 182 service-learning courses, with a total of 377 class sections, were offered to UGA students. There were 7,300 student enrollments. The Office of Service-Learning reports jointly to the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and the Vice President for Instruction.

Learn more about the Office of Service-Learning at http://servicelearning.uga.edu.