‘Unique’ graduate-level scholarships donated to support A&M-San Antonio counseling students

For the second year in a row, the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio is providing funding for scholarships to Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s counseling program.

The foundation’s $100,000 donation will support scholarships for up to 100 graduate students at A&M-San Antonio. Last year, the foundation gave the university’s counseling program $50,000 for scholarships.

Stephen Lenz, chair of the Department of Counseling, Health and Kinesiology, said last year’s funding helped students take more credit hours and graduate more quickly.

That’s especially important right now, not only for the students but for the wider community because there’s a need for more mental health counselors.

“There are people in our community waiting for highly qualified, culturally responsive mental health counselors, and they’re waiting right now,” Lenz said.

“We’ve had a shared set of experiences that has really been this leveling of the stigma against mental health,” he added, referring to the pandemic and other events of the last few years, including the death of George Floyd. “If you look at federal data, state data, local data, it all kind of triangulate to the same thing: that there is just a massive shortage of mental health providers.”

The need for mental health support is especially acute for children and teenagers, who are reporting higher levels of anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Lenz said the scholarships will cover up to the full cost of tuition, with the most funding going to students that are serving the community while fulfilling their field experience hours. Students in the counseling program need 700 hours of practicum or internship to graduate.

Lenz said it’s rare for graduate students to get this kind of support.

“We’ve been talking about this in the halls here, like, ‘Wouldn’t it have been amazing if any of us had this type of unique opportunity as master’s students? Because there just usually isn’t a ton of this type of support going around for master’s students,” he said.

The scholarships support students pursuing degrees in school counseling, clinical mental health counseling and family counseling.

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