Over the course of the 2022-2023 school year, Billy’s Place reached more than 20,000 school counselors, administrators, staff and students across dozens of schools in the Valley. 

We firmly believe in the power of expanding our community to meet kids and families where they are, so they can experience support in their grief as soon as possible. That’s why connecting with schools is so important to us. The schools in our community are so dedicated to kids and their families. It’s a perfect match!

Billy’s Place partners with schools in several ways:

Grief Informed Schools (GIS)

Through Grief Informed Schools (GIS), the Billy’s Place team goes into schools and trains counselors, social workers, teachers, and others on facilitating and leading grief groups, builds grief awareness, and provides a variety of resources that include a grief curriculum to support our school communities.

Grief Sensitive Schools Initiative (GSSI)

Grief Sensitive Schools Initiative (GSSI) is a partnership with New York Life Foundation, where we introduce Billy’s Place and build relationships to offer greater support to students and families who are experiencing grief. New York Life Foundation generously sponsors this program nationwide, including granting qualifying schools with $500.00 to support grief education and support. Billy’s Place is honored to partner locally with our longtime friend and Scottsdale agent, Bruce Frank.

Bruce Frank, New York Life agent, Scottsdale and generous Billy’s Place supporter with sports broadcaster Jeff Munn at a recent Hike for HOPE

Children and Teens Grief Awareness Month

This past November, we expanded our Children and Teens Grief Awareness Month campaign and reached 17,500 students across the West Valley. High school students worked with us to create the #bethere campaign to drive awareness among their peers in schools where many kids and teens experience grief, while sharing tips for how to best support their friends.

Our school partners wore blue (the color for Children and Teens Grief Awareness Month), displayed posters, wore wristbands, and hosted information sessions to raise awareness for grief among teens and families and to make sure every young person recognized that they are not alone in their grief. Here is an example of one of the posters we provided to local schools to display ⇨.

Shout out to Peoria Unified School District who came out HUGE for Children and Teens Grief Awareness Month. We’re so grateful for the enthusiastic participation.

Participating in school events 

We love having the opportunity to join school communities at mental health fairs, resource events, presentations, and more to raise awareness on how to #bethere for grieving kids. Just this past year we participated in a lunch and learn at Sunrise Mountain High School for students to learn about Billy’s Place, a community health fair at Pendergast Elementary School, unity fair at Peoria Flex Academy, fentanyl awareness resource event at Sunnyslope High School, and a community mental health fair at Verrado High School. 

Partnering with schools across the West Valley

During the 2022-2023 school year, we were thrilled to offer GIS, GSSI, and other grief education support to multiple schools and districts, including: 

  • Peoria Unified School District
  • Paloma Elementary School District
  • Seventh Day Adventist Schools
  • JAG-Jobs for America’s Graduates
  • Glendale Union High School District
  • Glendale Elementary School District
  • Phoenix Union High School District
  • Deer Valley Unified School District
  • Moon Valley High School 
  • Agua Fria School District
  • Nadaburg Elementary School
  • Dobson High School
  • Creighton Elementary School District

Support for school outreach

Our outreach and engagement with schools continues to grow each year. We are busy year-round meeting new teams and reengaging with partners we have trained.  We could never keep it all going without the incredible support we receive from generous partners. 

Last year, New York Life Foundation awarded Billy’s Place a two-year $100,000 grant that supports our growth in schools. Desert Financial Credit Union, Thunderbirds Charities, and Sundt Construction have also recently awarded grants to Billy’s Place to help reach more kids in schools. We can’t thank our incredible supporters enough! 

We even recently visited Good Morning Arizona on KTVK to talk about the impact of these crucial investments:

Meet the Billy’s Place School Bereavement Specialists

We are honored to have two amazingly dedicated team members lead the charge of engaging schools. 

Kaylene Ashbridge previously worked as a school counselor, classroom teacher, and most recently retired from being a principal. She has witnessed firsthand the need to support grieving students, school staff, and families within the school system.

Kaylene Ashbridge, School Bereavement Specialist, is presented with the proceeds of student-led fundraising efforts from our young friends at Legend Springs Elementary School

Karina Haholy recently joined Billy’s Place as a School Bereavement Liaison. After volunteering for two years and taking a break to have kids, she found herself being called back to Billy’s Place in this new role. With personal experience of grief as a child, having lost a brother to suicide, she is excited to help guide our educators on how to support bereaved kids. 

Karina Haholy, School Bereavement Specialist

Special thanks to Ruquiayah Gearring who helped to make this past year so successful, but has since moved on from Billy’s Place in order to pursue her passion of providing one-on-one counseling. Sending our big congratulations to Ruquiayah on earning her MSW! 

Supporting other grief support agencies

Kris Friedman and Kaylene were invited by New York Life Foundation to present “Opening Doors With GSSI” to other grief support centers looking to more deeply engage their school communities. They shared their experiences and tips at the National Alliance of Children’s Grief Symposium in June, 2023.

Kris, Kim, Melody, and Kaylene at the National Alliance of Children’s Grief Symposium

Get in touch

Email [email protected] if you would like to partner with Billy’s Place to be a Grief Informed School.