Alec W. Burrola, a student in Chapman’s Attallah College of Educational Studies School Psychology Program, has been awarded a 2020 Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY) Fellowship.

Funded by a grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the American Psychological Association (APA) created the STAY Fellowship as part of its Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) to support the training of mental health service practitioners. The fellowship supports those early in their psychology careers. It is specifically designed for graduate students in psychology whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to transition age youth (ages 16 through 25) and their families.

Burrola is currently on track to complete his second year of coursework and practicum hours this spring. He is also enrolled in Attallah College’s Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) program.

In addition to his academic coursework and fieldwork, Burrola worked with Attallah College’s, Annmary Abdou, Ph.D., assistance professor in the school psychology and school counseling programs, on research regarding restorative justice and alternatives to exclusionary discipline.

“Alec demonstrates a strong passion for the field of mental health and brings many skills to the field, including his experiences with transition-aged youth, compassion, and communication skills,” said Dr. Abdou.

Transition Aged Youth

Amy Jane Griffiths, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical counseling and coordinator of the Attallah College School Counseling and LPCC programs, explains that transition age youth are typically defined as individuals, ages 16 to 25, who are at risk of not successfully transitioning into independent adulthood due to the many challenges they may face, the complexity of their needs, and significant difficulty gaining assistance from their support system. This population includes millions of young adults who are disengaged and disconnected from school and work, are homeless, or experience a myriad of factors that put them at risk.

Many transition aged youth are particularly vulnerable when they age out of the foster care system or are discharged from mental health treatment facilities or released from juvenile halls. Such youth need opportunities to gain support, develop meaningful relationships and skills, and feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

“The transition to adulthood is an exciting yet vulnerable time,” said Dr. Griffiths. “It is crucial that these youth and their families receive mental health and related support services as they work toward greater levels of independence.”

Burrola says he applied for the fellowship because he is committed to meeting the behavioral health needs of underserved youth. His professional and research interests include providing counseling services to underserved populations and challenging punitive discipline systems that traditionally marginalize students of color.

Before entering Attallah’s Ed.S. in School Psychology program, Burrola had experience in peer advocacy and mentorship support of at-risk youth. He co-created a peer advocacy pilot program for youth enrolled in a substance use recovery program at a local nonprofit organization. He also has helped develop and implement classroom lessons on mental health awareness and has supported the implementation of a school-wide LGBTQ inclusive school climate program.

Professional Training and Networking

The STAY Fellowship includes a $10,000 grant award. STAY Fellows also have access to specialized trainings and workshops through which they are able to build strong professional networks early in their careers.

“I am really looking forward to attending the APA Psychology Summer Institute in Washington DC because it will be a great training and networking opportunity,” said Burrola.

As a STAY Fellow, he looks forward to learning from and creating professional relationships with mental health professionals from across the country.

Once he completes his training, Burrola intends to work at the secondary level as a school psychologist to support the mental health and transition needs of all students.


Learn more about the Attallah College’s MA in School Counseling, Ed.S. in School Psychology, and LPCC programs.