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KNOXVILLE — “Children are the center of our universe. When they suffer, we all suffer.”

That, according to Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, is the sentiment behind the new Grief Outreach initiative at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The college is launching the Grief Outreach initiative to provide counseling for children ages 6 to 16 who have experienced a loss. Students mostly from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling will meet with the children or their parents or both. Referrals for the service will be taken through the department starting Oct. 1.

Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services, originated the idea for the project.

“Faculty and students will work closely with local schools and faith-based organizations to identify those children who are grieving over the loss of a loved one or who are suffering from divorce or separation or other unfortunate events that impact their lives. It is our sincere hope that we will be able to develop the coping skills and resiliency in these children so that they may stay on pace academically and resume as normal a life as possible,” Rider said.

The college will mark the launch of this initiative with two events on Oct. 1.

– Suicide Assessment workshop, 9 a.m. to noon, University Center Room 221. UT faculty members Melinda Gibbons, Shawn Spurgeon and Jeannine Studer will train students and practitioners on how to identify potentially suicidal clients and assess the threat. The workshop is free for students in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences and $10 for other students and the public. To attend, RSVP to Gibbons at

– Counseling At-risk Children and Youth lecture, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., University Center Room 221. The lecture will be given by Donna Henderson, professor of counselor education at Wake Forest University. Henderson is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Alumna Award from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, where she earned her doctorate. She specializes in counseling at-risk students, students in crisis situations, and children and families with substance abuse issues. Henderson is a co-author of “Counseling Children,” now in its seventh edition, and “Developing an Effective and Accountable School Counseling Program, Handbook of School Counseling, and Counselor Preparation: Programs, Faculty, and Trends,” now in its 11th edition.

In the Grief Outreach initiative, 14 graduate students who are training to become school psychologists, school counselors, mental health counselors and college student personnel administrators will serve as facilitators. The program will take referrals from parents, teachers, principals and others in the Knoxville community. The facilitators will meet with children and parents at their school or other locations such as the Burlington Library and the Literacy Imperative.

Referrals can be made by contacting Tricia McClam, professor and associate head of the department, at (865) 974-3845 or


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,