Graduate students counsel local families

By Gus Bode

Jenni Bechtold’s graduate assistantship aids more than just teachers.

As a staff member of Project 12 Ways, Bechtold dedicates her time to helping local families who are involved with the Department of Child and Family Services.

Bechtold, a graduate student from Crystal Lake in behavior analysis and therapy, helps families in southern Illinois who have a history of abuse and neglect.


Brandon Greene, director of Project 12 Ways, said the program has been part of the university since 1979. Greene said that Bechtold and her peers do not work normal nine-to-five hours but instead get to their first house by breakfast and leave their last house after dinner.

He said he believes this particular assistantship is much more demanding than most others.

“The students, who we regard not so much as students but as staff, are responsible for clinical services to families who are … some of the most disenfranchised families in the region,” he said.

Dana Harvey, chief rehabilitation counselor for Project 12 Ways, said she is extremely involved with the staff as they work with their families.

She said after an initial two-week, all-day, every-day training session, the staff undergoes continuous training. Harvey said the staff members continue training the whole time they are with the program and participate in weekly clinical staff meetings to report family progress.

Harvey said students never go to the homes alone and are always accompanied by at least two staff members.

“A graduate assistant could have anywhere from two cases to even up to six at any given time,” Harvey said.


Bechtold said when she applied to the graduate school program, Project 12 Ways was her first choice for an assistantship.

She said her main job is to provide assistance to families who need help with their day-to-day routines.

“All the families you really get to know. You’re in their house once a week, and you’re there when they’re having stressful times,” she said. “I look forward to seeing my families every week.”

“You do get to know them on a more personal level because you’re involved in a very personal part of their lives,” Bechtold said.

Christian Holt can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 259 or [email protected].