Project LEAD Scholarship

Leaders Enhancing outcomes for Adjudicated youth with Disabilities with intensive needs in urban settings

The enormity of challenges faced by adjudicated youth with disabilities, their families, support personnel in high-poverty schools, and in their communities is monumental. Lack of trained personnel with knowledge of evidence-based practices (EBP), missing collaborative networks, and continued disenfranchisement of high-need youth with disabilities combine to exacerbate the problem. Current success rates for youth with disabilities to enter and complete post high school education remain exceedingly low. Additionally, adjudicated youth with disabilities are at greater risk for unemployment, incarceration, and life in poverty.

Project LEAD (Leaders Enhancing outcomes for Adjudicated youth with Disabilities with intensive needs in urban settings) prepares special educators and school social workers to earn initial certification and improve outcomes for adjudicated youth with disabilities in temporary detention center schools and in middle and high schools.

The project is a collaborative effort between UIC’s Department of Special Education and Jane Addams College of Social Work. Building on long-standing partnerships with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Juvenile Justice Division of Cook County Juvenile Courts, Project LEAD will prepare 32 special educators and school social workers through scholarship funding to obtain their respective initial degrees and licenses culminating in either a MEd with initial state licensure as Learning Behavior Specialist I (LBSI) in special education or a master’s degree in school social work (MSW).

Project LEAD will establish a public website where scholars and collaborative partners will post results, new knowledge, and research contributions from their evidence-based practice.

Project LEAD programming and coursework

Program components include core coursework, shared coursework, coordinated assignments, experiences, and other enhancements. Scholars will co-enroll in four courses (2 courses from each program) and three integrative seminars over three semesters. Seminars are designed and co-taught by faculty from special education and social work. Coursework, assignments and field experiences will incorporate EBP from both fields and will enable scholars to be fully prepared to support adjudicated youth with disabilities.

The program course enhancements include

  1. Creation of a collaborative network of regional partners that will support the implementation of EBP with students with disabilities with intensive needs
  2. Use of program curriculum and assessments that draw on key components for personnel preparation in special education, social work and adjudicated youth with disabilities
  3. Expansion of interdisciplinary learning opportunities and practices in high-need urban schools
  4. Provision of induction and mentoring support
  5. Development of innovative opportunities to network and improve their practice, such as a 2-day Scholar Summit. Graduates will join a network of induction support to establish relationships with current program scholars and other graduates.


Eligible candidates include:

  1. Current students in the Jane Addams College of Social Work with a focus in school social work.
  2. General education middle or high school teachers licensed in Illinois to teach at least one academic subject area to general education students and interested in obtaining the MEd Special Education degree.

Additionally, all candidates must be interested in issues pertaining to adjudicated youth with disabilities in urban settings.

Application Process

Please complete the following steps by October 1st if you are interested in applying to Project LEAD:

  1. Apply to the College of Education
  2. Apply to the UIC Graduate College
  3. Complete the Project LEAD Application

Apply: Project LEAD Scholarship


Brandi Walton
Project Coordinator