Sowela awarded nearly $300,000 to support mental health intiativies

Published 2:40 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

Special to the American Press
Sowela Technical Community College recently received funding from the Louisiana Board of Regents to enhance students’ mental health services, increase education and outreach about available services, and expand the pipeline of behavioral health professionals. The award amount totals $286,639 and will be spent over the next fiscal year.
“Sowela has been fortunate to have healthy enrollments throughout our four campus locations,” said Sowela Chancellor Neil Aspinwall. “However, getting the students to enroll is only part of the equation for student success. Another important part is retention so we focus heavily on the student support services that will help students persevere, remain in college, and complete their programs of study. Mental health services are a critical part of the retention process and something that our students need to help them successfully navigate the higher education landscape and achieve success.”
The College plans to purchase new counseling technology to provide telehealth services at all Sowela locations in Lake Charles, Jennings, Leesville and Oakdale. SOWELA will construct office space at its rural instructional sites to enhance privacy for mental health services. Funds will also cover professional development for faculty and staff to help bolster curriculum and instruction and provide students with mental health resources and events.
“In the past, there has been a stigma surrounding mental health,” said Director of Student Services Maegan Lewis. “Working with students daily, I have witnessed first-hand the present-day awareness growing that surrounds the importance of understanding mental health. Many students are returning to college as they understand the growing careers that support mental health, the need for these careers, and the demand in our community.”
To help meet the workforce demand of behavioral health professionals, SOWELA will use a part of the funding to provide scholarships to new students in Criminal Justice, Culinary Medicine, Nursing, Practical Nursing and Clinical Medical Assistant programs. Scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and are worth up to $1,000. Students must have a 2.0 GPA to qualify.
An informational session will be offered on Tuesday, June 18, at 5 p.m. to learn more about SOWELA’s programs leading to behavioral health careers, scholarship opportunities and student services. The event is open to the public, and interested individuals should register at It will be held at SOWELA’s Sycamore Student Center, 3824 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Ave., Lake Charles, LA 70615.

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