North Texas Daily

$313,000 grant given to UNT professors for play therapy project

$313,000 grant given to UNT professors for play therapy project

September 13
23:16 2017

Three UNT professors were recently given a $313,000 grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health for the Play for the Future project, which will help five elementary schools in the community.

For the next three years, the grant will go to three elementary schools in Denton and two in Little Elm. The three schools in Denton are Evers Park, Rivera and Hodge Elementary schools and the two in Little Elm are Hackberry and Oak Point Elementary schools.

“I’m really excited for the funding to help more children, hundreds of them,” said Dee Ray, professor of counseling and higher education at UNT and director of Center for Play Therapy. “This grant will help, and we are always wanting more [grants].”

Ray, Peggy Ceballos and Natalya Lindo are the three recipients of this grant and all work under UNT’s Department of Counseling and Higher Education. Play therapy within the Play for the Future program is a form of therapy mainly geared towards children to encourage and help them express their emotions and communication skills, according to, an online therapy directory.   

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is a foundation to “advance mental wellness for the people of Texas as a strategic grantmaker and catalyst for change,” according to their website. They give out grants to projects that will have a “significant impact” on integrated health care, workforce development and mental health practices, like play therapy.

This grant is to provide services for the children within the program and to gather informative research on this tactic. It is also for teachers to work on relationships with children and help parents build relationships with their children.

The research conducted through the Play for the Future project is to see if there is a link in children who have issues with mental illness and who are having issues progressing academically.

The children involved in this practice at the UNT’s Center for Play Therapy are a mixture of children in the Denton community and children related to UNT faculty members and students, Damian McClintock, assistant director for UNT’s Center for Play Therapy, said. The children’s ages range from preschool to elementary levels.

All the schools involved in this project that will be funded through the grant have a “met standard” rating, the Texas Tribune said. The number of children enrolled at these five elementary schools average from 550 to 700 students. 

During the 2015-16 school year, Hodge Elementary consisted of 72 percent of children at risk of dropping out, according to the Texas Tribune. Hackberry, Rivera and Oak Point Elementary had around 70 percent of their children considered “at risk,” and Evers Park Elementary had almost 55 percent of children at risk.

This newly funded project will help hundreds of children attending low, at-risk schools to see if there is a link between academic outcomes and economic disadvantages.

Featured Image: Evers Park Elementary School is one of five elementary school in the Denton area that is receiving part of a $313,000 grant from UNT faculty. The grant is awarded to these schools to fund the “Play for the Future” project. Sarah Schreiner

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Jacqueline Guerrero

Jacqueline Guerrero

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1 Comment

  1. Norma
    Norma September 28, 14:48

    So wonderful! What a great focus for research! Congratulations!!!

    Reply to this comment

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