Advocacy in Schools: A Graduate Student Example

By: Whitney L. Kleinert, M.Ed., Ph.D. Candidate, University of Massachusetts Boston

As a future school psychologist, I believe that advocating for the field of school psychology is incredibly important. This not only informs others of our field, but it helps people understand our expertise and the manner in which we can provide services at the individual, school, district, and national level. As graduate students, we are in a prime position to advocate for the field of school psychology. Specifically, we are often in different schools and/or districts as we build our practicum and internship hours to become Nationally Certified School Psychologists (NCSP). These in-school experiences give graduate students a chance to advocate for the field either alone, in collaboration with other students, or with their supervising school psychologist across settings.

At the high school in which I am a doctoral Advanced Practicum student, I enjoy advocating for the field in different ways. At times, it is simply explaining to teachers or parents the role I have as an Advanced Practicum student in school psychology. This may entail explaining (a) my particular tasks within the school setting, (b) the reasons I chose to pursue graduate studies in school psychology, or (c) elaborating on what my supervising school psychologist does to help students achieve their best behaviorally and academically. This form of advocacy is an excellent way to raise overall awareness of the incredible things we can do as school psychologists. This year, I took my advocacy one step forward by incorporating a fellow graduate student in my advocacy efforts.

During School Psychology Awareness Week, I collaborated with a student from Northeastern University, Caitlin Stromberg, to disseminate information to the faculty at our practicum site. We created a "THRIVE!" handout with a note from the school psychology staff, which includes our on-site supervisor, Dr. Joan Struzziero. On the handout, we included several evidence-based resources for faculty members to help them develop ideas for working with students with academic and social-emotional needs. Together, we disseminated these materials to all of the school's staff. At the school-wide level, it was rewarding to share information about our field with others and to also advocate for the use of evidence-based practices when working with students.

Both Caitlin and I believe that advocacy is a critical component to implementing change, expanding our knowledge as school psychologists, and broadening the understanding of our field to others. In this case, we used our advocacy skills to provide educators with evidence-based resources and information about the role of school psychologists. We look forward to continuing our collaboration on future school psychology advocacy projects and encourage other graduate students to do the same!