Student Encourages Advocacy for Special Education Students

While working as a school district translator, Redlands School of Education counseling student Yuridia “Yuri” Nava says she became concerned some special education students were not being well served by their school counselors.

She says the counselors often attended Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings with students, but did not always advocate for the students during discussions about which services they should receive, what education goals should be set and how their day-to-day school life should function.

“The counselors were there, but I felt they were not really a voice for the students – the IEPs were sometimes finalized in ways that were not in the best interest of the students,” Nava said.

Now, Nava is working to change those shortcomings by calling attention to the problem. One step in that effort came in November, when she presented her research during the California Association of School Counselors conference in Temecula.

During the conference, she shared her research exploring the preparation levels of counselors working with special education students. As part of her study, counselors in two school districts were surveyed about their knowledge of the IEP process and whether they were prepared to help special education students and families.

She said she found that most counselors did not recognize their role in advocating for special education students. Some counselors also did not fully understand the IEP process and the role that they should play, she said.

Nava – an aspiring counselor who would eventually like to get her doctorate – said she credits assistant professor Janee Both-Gragg with encouraging her to conduct and present the research.

“The professors, including Dr. Both-Gragg, are like fuel – they fuel the passion that you brought when you came here. They prepare you and encourage you to do more than you ever imagined,” she said. “I’m so excited and thankful to be presenting at the conference and I know I wouldn’t have made it to this point without their support and belief in me.”

The University has a long tradition of encouraging and supporting study abroad.

More than 47 percent of Redlands undergraduates participate in study abroad programs.

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