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Pepperdine University Partners with Price Schools to Help Students Process Grief Through Art

A Seaver College student finalizes an art project

Pepperdine University’s Office for Community Belonging arranged a collaborative effort between a Seaver College art class and Frederick K. C. Price III Christian Schools—located on Pepperdine’s original Los Angeles campus—that allowed students at both schools to explore the concepts of grief and loss through art. 

"The pilot collaboration between Seaver College's Art 330 class and Frederick K. C. Price III's junior high and high school students was one of healing,” says J. Goosby Smith, Pepperdine University’s vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer.

Seaver College and Price students

Upon entering the second semester of the academic year, the need for healing was prevalent in both the Pepperdine and Price communities as students at both schools had experienced significant losses in the preceding months.

At Pepperdine, four Seaver College students—Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir, and Deslyn Williams—were killed tragically in a car accident on October 17, 2023, along Pacific Coast Highway. Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, Eric Dunn, a beloved high school Bible teacher and coach at Price Schools, passed away unexpectedly. Both of these tragedies profoundly impacted the schools’ communities, especially its students. 

In the wake of these painful losses, Renée Reizman, an adjunct art professor at Seaver College, collaborated with Price art teacher Tylaina Alford to develop ways to help students at both institutions work through their emotions. Art, Reizman thought, could aid in this process. 

“When I learned that both Price and Pepperdine had experienced sudden, tragic losses in their communities, I thought it would be good to explore the theme ‘healing through grief,’” says Reizman. “Though our students are very different, our conversations unearthed many universal feelings that arise in times of mourning. By sharing this theme with the campus at large, we continue to grow from this difficult experience and find humanity within each other.”

"Amidst the echoes of grief, there is a glimmer of hope found in the healing power of art along with our faith,” adds Alford. “Our love extends to all, embracing each soul touched by grief, knowing that art serves as a beacon of light—a start of healing. As we navigate the depths of our emotions, we embark on a journey of healing, learning to navigate the turbulent seas of loss with courage and resilience. Through creativity and expression, we honor the legacy of those who have left indelible marks on our lives, keeping their memories alive in the canvas of our hearts."

Throughout the spring semester, Seaver College students accompanied by Reizman and Sierra Bell, project manager from Pepperdine’s Office for Community Belonging, traveled weekly to Price Schools’ campus located at 79th and Vermont Avenue in South Los Angeles, where the two bereaved groups of students united to discuss their grief and create art. The undergraduates and their younger counterparts developed a bond that was personally and educationally impactful. 

A Price student designs an art piece

“Going to Price at the original Pepperdine campus was a unique experience for our class, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the students there,” says Londyn Johnson, a Seaver College junior. “As the only Black student from the Pepperdine group, I felt a special connection with the Price students when discussing how we culturally process grief. I was amazed at how emotionally intelligent the students were at their age and how well we were able to collaborate on this project."

On April 24, 2024, Reizman and her students hosted an exhibition on Seaver College’s Malibu campus to display the meaningful artworks created by both groups of students during the semester. Collages, drawings done with colored pencils and markers, photography, and digital designs were unveiled in Adamson Plaza at the heart of campus. Students not associated with the course had the opportunity to pass through the works, consider their own grieving processes, and heal alongside the rest of the community. 

This collaboration with the current occupants of Pepperdine’s original campus is the University’s most recent with Price. Since 2022, Pepperdine has sent undergraduates, staff, faculty, and administrators to the Vermont Avenue campus to volunteer as part of the University’s Step Forward Day initiative. In 2023 Pepperdine hosted a biology day on the Price campus to help students consider future careers in science—an initiative both schools intend to continue. 

“Price Schools remains a vibrant community partner,” says Smith. “We eagerly anticipate future collaborations providing even more impactful educational experiences for our students and theirs.”