The Mississippi School of the Arts (MSA) has been designated a “Grief-Sensitive School” by the New York Life Foundation, receiving a $500 Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative grant to help them build a more robust culture of grief support and resiliency at their school.

Schools confront issues of grief and loss every day: 1 in 14 US children* will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18. Studies show that unresolved grief can have a social and emotional impact on children, leading to behavioral issues and poor performance in school. Yet educators often feel under-prepared to lend support to their students, with the vast majority of teachers reporting they have not received any bereavement training.

New York Life’s Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative is a national program created to address the gap in grief support in school communities by providing free and accessible resources to better equip educators and other school personnel to support grieving students.

The grant was used to support bereaved students by offering a grief retreat to the teens of Mississippi. The retreat included pottery, painting a mural, creative writing, and yoga on the beautiful, historic campus of MSA. MSA’s inaugural retreat was attended by 21 high school students representing 8 different schools across Mississippi. 100% of post-retreat survey feedback indicated that the grief retreat met or exceeded the expectations of teen attendees.

*Results from the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM) developed by Judi’s House/JAG Institute

Pictured from left: Harlie Blauw, MSA School Counselor who created and planned the event; Agent and Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative Ambassador for New York Life, Dr. Nikisha Ware, presenting the $500 Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative grant check and MSA’s Executive Director, Dr. Suzanne Hirsch.


Pictured is the collaborative art piece created at the grief retreat by the teens featuring their handprints to create a butterfly. It is presently displayed in front of Lampton Auditorium on MSA’s campus.


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