Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Since joining the College of Education in the fall as an assistant professor in school counseling, Laura Gallo has already made a large impact on her field.

In recognition of her work addressing the mental health needs of children and adolescents, Gallo is being awarded the 2022 Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC) Distinguished Professional Service Award. The award will be presented during the American Counseling Association Conference on Friday, April 8. 

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by ACAC, as I believe they are one of the prominent organizations in our country advocating for children and adolescents by providing education opportunities, funding research, and publishing a journal for counselors who work with this population,” Gallo says. 

This honor is well deserved, as Gallo has contributed to the mental health of children through her research, teaching, and service.

Gallo’s main research focus is on suicide prevention work, but she has also recently started examining interventions for trauma with children and adolescents. Gallo gives special attention to helping school counselors understand how to work with children and adolescents who experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 

“My hope is to help counselors feel more confident in their skills and to recognize the importance of their role in assessing for suicide, especially within the school setting,” Gallo says.

She has also written and published more than 10 articles during the past five years and co-authored a book devoted to children and school counseling. 

When teaching, Gallo always includes a component of her previous experiences working in K-12 schools, highlighting the influence school counselors can have on the students they serve. 

“My students seem to enjoy the real-life examples of how we, as school counselors, can impact our students’ mental health and well-being,” Gallo says. 

Her focus on service has been a large emphasis for Gallo in her journey as a counselor educator. She has provided more than 13 trainings in recent years to help educators help youth who are struggling with mental health issues. 

“I sometimes miss being in the classroom and interacting with students,” Gallo says. “However, working with K-12 educators has helped fill that gap for me and provided some satisfaction that I am still impacting children.” 

In working to lessen the stigma around suicide, Gallo wants people to know that suicide prevention has to be a community effort. 

“The shame and stigma often associated with mental health issues prevent people from discussing these topics,” Gallo says. “Children and adolescents then feel ashamed to bring them up when they begin to struggle. If we raise awareness that it’s okay to talk about it within our communities, we will have more kids ready to ask for help.” 

Gallo hopes her work can promote “help-seeking” cultures within our schools and communities and is excited about her upcoming opportunities to build on her research on suicide with the school systems here in Iowa, especially with the new Scanlan Center for School Mental Health. Specifically, Gallo hopes to build partnerships and help strengthen crisis response efforts around the state and country. 

"Joining the College of Education as a faculty member has always been a dream of mine,” Gallo says. “There is a tremendous amount of support and opportunity. I am excited for the future.”