Baltimore Youth Grief Support
Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence’s Liberty Elementary Grief Support Group is the brainchild of Reverend Dr. Greta Willis. Reverend Willis is Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence’s Grief Support Director, founder of The Kevin L. Cooper Foundation and a survivor of gun violence. You can learn more about Reverend Willis’ story here.
In addition to working within communities to amplify and highlight the lasting impact violence has on survivors and the community, MPGV works with youth to help stem the tide of violence. Reverend Willis directs our Liberty Elementary School Grief Support Group in West Baltimore. Reverend Greta Willis is an ordained elder and focused her studies on bereavement support. Ms. Greta and Ms. Jennie Johnson, meet the children for weekly sessions. They have long been involved in providing much needed support to the people of Baltimore. As lifelong residents of Baltimore, they are acutely aware of the needs of the communities where these children live because they grew up in or near these neighborhoods.
Black youth disclose an average of three losses of loved ones to homicide starting in early childhood and with increasing frequency during the teen and young adult years. The students Reverend Willis and her team work with are identified by school staff members as children who need extra support because they have experienced the loss of a loved one. This loss is not limited to gun violence. Many of these children have parents who are serving sentences in the criminal justice system.
The programming was temporarily suspended when the COVID-19 pandemic started. However, by early May 2021, most of the students were located and the team mobilized to provide the necessary resources to support the children. MPGV provided the Liberty Elementary Grief Support Team with iPads to facilitate an online virtual support group. The group is now back to meeting in person.
MPGV is in a unique position to provide these services to the community. Our volunteers also provide school wide, age appropriate activities for the children, talking about ways to engage in non-violent conflict resolution among other critical supports. Reaching out to youth at this pivotal time in their development, group leaders are able to demonstrate that community members care and are here to help.