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First year students, from left, Tom Brya, CL Tarantola, Madeline Groenewold, Christina Dispensa, Marissa Borkowski, (front): Autumn Buckley and Maddie Webb.
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Second year students, from left, Ben Lilly, Devin Galloway, Maddy Grady, Cheyenne Sidwell and Ali Kazubowski.
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WIU Graduate Student Awarded Prestigious School Psychology Scholarship

February 16, 2022

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University graduate student Cheng-Lun "CL" Tarantola has been awarded the Illinois Fund for Careers in School Psychology 2022 Minority Scholarship Award.

Tarantola is a first-year student in the specialist program in school psychology at WIU. She is also a WIU alumni (2014) and WIU adjunct faculty (2016-2018), holding a master's degree in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration. She was a recreation therapy adjunct instructor and internship coordinator for two years at WIU, supporting experiential learning and service activities with the McDonough County Special Recreation Association, Horses with Wings Therapeutic Center and McDonough County Senior Center. She was also a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist with Macomb's Behavioral Health unit for the past four years.

The Illinois Fund for Careers in School Psychology (IFCSP) was founded in 1991, to further the education of school psychologists, support scientific research in the field, promote public awareness of the important role school psychologists play in schools, communities and society. The IFCSP Minority Scholarship Program awards highly qualified applicants with scholarship funding to support graduate student tuition and fees, and Tarantola was one of two graduate students in the state of Illinois awarded the scholarship funding this year.

Tarantola discovered the field of school psychology after looking for resources for her family. National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provided these resources and Tarantola began her journey to explore this field and merge her prior skills with the role of school psychologists in supporting social, cognitive and behavioral health.

She was recognized for this scholarship at the awards ceremony of the Illinois School Psychologists Association (ISPA) Conference Feb. 3.

"There is nothing more important to me right now than to ensure I absorb all of this knowledge to become a successful school-based mental health professional as a credentialed school psychologist," Tarantola said in her award statement. She added that her future goals include, "advocating for youth experiencing learning and social-emotional challenges, to support access to appropriate educational services, and to teach students self-confidence to succeed in school and in life."

All 12 of the psychology department's graduate students were able to attend this year's ISPA conference with the help of contributions from WIU alumni, Drs. Norm and Carmelita Teeter. Their donation paid for the students' registration for the two-day conference and allowed them to be there in support of Tarantola.

For more information about WIU's Specialist program in School Psychology, visit

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