MSA designated ‘Grief-Sensitive School’

Published 12:00 pm Monday, June 14, 2021

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

Schools confront issues of grief and loss daily. One in 14 children in the United States will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18, according to the JAG Institute. Studies show unresolved grief can have a social and emotional impact on children, leading to behavioral issues and poor performance in school.

Educators often feel underprepared to lend support to grieving students, and the vast majority of teachers have received no bereavement training. The NYL 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.

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



From left, MSA School Counselor Harlie Blauw, who created and planned the event; New York Life agent and Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative Ambassador Dr. Nikisha Ware; and MSA Executive Director Dr. Suzanne Hirsch.


A collaborative art piece was created by teens at the grief retreat, using their handprints to create a butterfly. The piece is currently displayed on MSA’s campus in front of Lampton Auditorium.