NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Lipscomb University has received its largest grant ever—$4.8 million.

“We are super excited. We just know that so many students are going to be served by this,” said Lisa Davies.

Davies is the director of Lipscomb University’s school counseling program. She sees a tremendous need in Middle Tennessee to train more counselors.

“When you have the ratio of one counselor to 500 students, that stretches it. It can even give burnout. We want to be able to lower that ratio,” she said.

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Her goal is one counselor for every 250 students, and this $4.8 million grant hopes to make that happen.

“We want to support these students cognitively, socially, emotionally — all those developmental pieces.”

The money covers tuition for 80 full-time school employees to receive a Master’s in School Counseling at Lipscomb University. Metro Nashville, Rutherford County, Maury County, and Hickman County Schools are a part of the program, as well as the Lebanon Special School District.

Maury County Schools went the entire 2022-2023 school year short three school counselors. School leaders say they are excited to have more counselors that can also help with students’ mental health.

“With social media and all those challenges that we didn’t have as children, it’s kind of amplified, so having school counselors in buildings is key,” said Lisa Ventura, Maury County Schools superintendent.

“We know that the way life happens, things do come up. And so I think it’s important for them to have trust in our teachers, in our administration, and especially school counselors,” said Derek Green, coordinator of mental health counseling and behavioral supports.

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From the pandemic to the pressures on social media, Davies said students are facing major challenges. However, school counselors — with the proper training — can set them on a brighter path.

“They want to work with the families to make sure that any student working through mental health challenges, that they’re being provided resources, that they’re being provided the right connections,” she said.

The Master’s program starts in the fall and takes two years to complete.