October 29, 2013
One day after a 6-year-old girl is killed in a Charlottesville car accident, her school community has begun the grieving process.
Clark Elementary School began offering grief counselors to students and staff on Monday.
"The whole idea of death in general is hard to absorb and understand," said Chelsea Ouellette, the site-based program coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge.
The girl, whom police have not identified, died Monday after entering the path of a pickup truck in a Charlottesville neighborhood. Her sister is in fourth grade at the school.
As the police investigation continues, the school community is supporting each other.
"The staff here pulled together, and they were strong for each other yesterday and came in this morning prepared to help our kids," said Christi Wilson, the coordinator of special education and student services for Charlottesville City Schools.
With the tragedy, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge also put out a call to volunteers to focus on Clark.
"During times like this, tragedies like this that are so unexpected, one of the most important things is to have consistency," Ouellette said. "These students have a volunteer, a friend, every week who's coming to see them, and that's something they can count on."
Wilson said in situations like this, it's important for the kids to have a listening ear -- someone to talk to about whatever they want.
"I think some mentors and adults can make them aware that it's ok to have a whole lot of different feelings about experiencing something like this," Wilson said.
Understanding how to talk about tragedy could be among the best ways to begin the healing process.
"To know that they have someone there for them during times like this or during normal times, to have that and to expect it, is really great for them," Ouellette said.
School officials encouraged students to talk with their parents about grieving, and the school sent home tips for parents on how to do that.
Officials will reassess their counseling priorities every day and plan to have counselors available throughout the week.