HRSA-SDS Scholarship funded Leaders in Diversity and Resilience (LDR) Fellowship Program

Funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students, the LDR Fellowship Program aims to diversify the behavioral health workforce by retaining first-generation college students and students from low-income backgrounds and groups under-represented in the counseling field, and equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and training to provide culturally responsive services and address mental health disparities in primary care settings and medically underserved communities. HRSA’s Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students is a federally-funded retention initiative that is intended to alleviate the significant financial burden and accumulated debt frequently cited as insurmountable barriers for students who are underrepresented in a health profession program (e.g., clinical mental health counseling), are enrolled full-time, have a demonstrated financial need, and have a strong commitment to practicing in unserved and underserved communities.

The LDR Fellowship Program is housed within the Counseling and Behavioral Health Department at William James College. Its primary objectives are to:

  1. Provide 20 scholarships annually to eligible students from backgrounds underrepresented in the clinical mental health counseling field (e.g., first-generation college students, students from low-income communities, and students from under-represented groups in the counseling profession, which may include, but are not limited to, racial/ethnic minorities (e.g., Black or African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American) and individuals from rural communities, who are currently enrolled in WJC’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling M.A. (on campus) Program on a full-time basis and have a demonstrated financial need. Each student will be awarded $32,500 annually to cover the costs of tuition and fees.
  2. Facilitate access to culturally focused academic training to promote greater awareness of, and commitment to, careers in medically underserved communities (MUCs) and/or primary care settings.
  3. Offer culturally focused field training opportunities for awardees to work with unserved populations and in underserved communities.
  4. Provide mentorship and career counseling to support the successful retention and training of students who are underrepresented in the field of clinical mental health counseling.
  5. Foster a sense of community belongingness and peer cohesion through the provision of social-cultural and professional development activities.
  6. Facilitate academic and professional development success in graduate school by linking scholarship awardees to academic resources and student support services at WJC.
  7. Evaluate the program’s impacts on the career choices of scholarship awardees by tracking the number of graduates who practice in primary care settings and in medically underserved communities.

Scholarship awardees will be recruited from among eligible students who are currently enrolled on a full-time basis in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA Program (on campus). Scholarship funds will be prioritized for students for whom the cost of attendance constitutes a severe financial hardship. Awardees will be selected based on the definitions of “disadvantaged backgrounds,” as endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal TRIO Programs and HRSA.

For the purpose of the LDR Fellowship Program, the term “disadvantaged backgrounds” will be used to refer to students who fall in one, or more, of the following categories:

  1. Low-income backgrounds – i.e., students who have received a Federal Pell Grant or whose family’s taxable income for the preceding year did not exceed 200% of the poverty level (e.g., $51,500 for a family of 4 in 2019
  2. First-generation – i.e., if either parent did not complete a baccalaureate degree; if prior to the age of 18, the student resided with and received support from only one parent who did not complete a baccalaureate degree; or if prior to the age of 18, the student did not regularly reside with or receive support from a natural or adoptive parent. If the parent(s) and/or guardian(s) attended college but did not earn a bachelor’s degree, a student is still considered to be first-generation.
  3. Groups underrepresented in clinical mental health counseling master’s programs – these may include, but are not limited to, racial/ethnic minorities (e.g., Black or African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American) and individuals from rural communities. 

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA (on campus program) applicants will be required to submit an application via Qualtrics along with a résumé and an essay, describing their background, volunteer and community service experience, commitment to serve historically marginalized groups, and the financial burden that they are currently facing.
  • Applicants must also fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form through the Financial Aid Office.
  • A Scholarships Selection Committee, comprised of the LDR Fellowship Program staff, will conduct a rigorous application review.
  • Applicants for the scholarships will be evaluated based on a combination of academic achievement and demonstrated financial need, as shown on their FAFSA form.
  • Following the application review process, the Scholarships Selection Committee will identify a core group of finalists and meet via conference calls/Zoom with the finalists prior to selecting the 20 scholarship awardees.
  • Applicants will be chosen based on demonstrated financial needs, backgrounds (i.e., first-generation, low-income and/or underrepresented minorities in the field of clinical psychology), academic achievement, motivation to work with underserved populations, and career interests in practicing in MUCs and/or primary care settings.
  • To be eligible for future funding, awardees must re-apply on an annual basis and demonstrate satisfactory academic progress, fulfillment of their academic and field placement responsibilities, and continued financial need, per their FAFSA form.

Scholarship awardees in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA (on campus) Program will:

  • Pursue academic training with underserved populations (e.g., Blacks, Latinos, children and families, older adults, etc.) through coursework offered at WJC.
  • Seek field education experiences at training sites that are designated as Federally Qualified Health Centers and are in areas that serve low-income families, ethnic/racial minority individuals, linguistic and sexual minority groups, immigrants, and other unserved and underserved populations.
  • Obtain mentorship, career counseling, and academic support during their involvement with the LDR Fellowship Program.
  • Participate in professional development and social-cultural activities designed to retain students in the program, enhance their sense of community belongingness and group cohesion, and strengthen their social connections with WJC faculty, students and program administrators as well as community-based partners.
  • Engage in volunteer/community service opportunities at WJC and/or with local agencies that serve culturally and socioeconomically diverse communities.

Additionally, awardees must remain in good academic standing throughout their enrollment in the LDR Fellowship Program. They must also re-apply for the scholarship every year and submit a FAFSA form to determine financial eligibility for the scholarship.

Contact Information

The HRSA-SDS funded LDR Fellowship Program for the Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA On-Campus Program is administered by Dr. Nilda M. Laboy, Program Director; and Mrs. Melissa Koen, MS, LMHC, Associate Director. For information about the LDR Fellowship Program, please email or