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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New grant gives funding to bilingual speech-language pathology students

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded an $800,000 grant to the College of Education at New Mexico State University to fund students participating in a bilingual speech-language pathology graduate program.

The purpose of the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Speech-language Services for All Language Learners program, or CLASS for ALL, is to recruit, retain and train 16 bilingual speech-language pathologists to provide speech-language services to children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds that have a speech and language impairment.

The four-year grant will be divided into two cohorts, each lasting two years. The grant will fund participating students by paying tuition, books and a stipend.

"When you're in this graduate program, it is very difficult to work and earn money," said Deborah Rhein, an assistant communication disorders professor. "This grant will help students get through the program and become a certified speech-language pathologist by the American Speech Hearing Association (ASHA), as well as preparing them for working as bilingual clinicians."

Along with the 53 credits required for the two year graduate program, CLASS for ALL students must take three additional courses. Rhein said this is necessary because the field is so specific. One is an undergraduate phonetics class in their first language. The other class focuses on secondary language acquisition and theory. The last class is a bilingual assessment and intervention. During this class, the students will receive additional training in how to work with an interpreter.

Rhein said the two bilingual focus classes also are beneficial for monolingual graduate students, because they will learn how to interact with interpreters, theories of second language acquisition and intervention techniques for working with children who are culturally and linguistically diverse.

Along with the three additional classes, students funded under CLASS for ALL are required to complete at least 100 of the 400 hours with clients who are non-native speakers.

The first cohort, which began in the fall 2008 semester, includes six students. Rhein hopes to recruit 10 students for the second cohort in 2010. While the grant only offers enough funding for 16 students, any communication disorder graduate student who wants to develop expertise in this area is eligible to take the additional coursework and will receive a certificate acknowledging the expertise acquired.

The students that are funded by the CLASS for ALL program are obligated to be employed by a public school system after they graduate and are certified. For every year they received grant funding, they must work two years serving special education students in the public school system. This can be any public school in the U.S. and Department of Defense schools overseas.

"We need a bilingual speech-language pathology program here because NMSU is the perfect place to do it," Rhein said. "NMSU is the largest Hispanic-serving university in the country. We could meet a huge national need."

Rhein said she hopes to get another grant to keep the program alive after this grant ends. She also said she is proud of the speech-language pathology program at NMSU because of its 100 percent pass rate on the Praxis exam.

The Praxis exam, along with a master's degree, 400 hours of supervised clinical work, and completion of a clinical fellowship year are required to apply to ASHA for a Certificate of Clinical Competence.