Soaring Spirits International is pleased to announce an exciting partnership with Schreiner University as they officially open the Soaring Spirits Resilience Center at Schreiner University. This will be the first center of its kind in the U.S. to focus primarily on grief and resilience, based on research conducted with widowed people.

“We are extremely excited to be working with Schreiner University on this Resilience Center,” said Michele Neff Hernandez, executive director for Soaring Spirits International. “Our partnership is an innovative pairing of Soaring Spirits’ organizational knowledge with the academic integrity of Schreiner University. The resources available through the center will ultimately benefit a variety of grieving populations, while also offering resources and tools for building resilience through any of life’s challenges to the Schreiner student body and the wider community.”

Charlie McCormick, Ph.D., president of Schreiner University, said, “Schreiner University’s front gate has carved in stone the words: ‘Enter with hope.’  That audacious invitation and promise speaks to the long history and future commitment of Schreiner to resilience of all sorts. The Soaring Spirits Resilience Center at Schreiner University will give us another opportunity to understand and apply resilience in the human experience. We look forward to a long partnership with Soaring Spirits International.”   

The backstory on how the partnership between SSI and Schreiner University came about began when Carrie West, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the university, approached the organization about conducting a research project which involved collecting data from widowed people attending Soaring Spirits’ Camp Widow® program. Camp Widow® is a weekend long program that offers widowed people access to a peer community; and provides resources and tools to rebuild their lives following the death of a spouse or partner.

“At the time, I was interested in communication processes widowed people use to construct resilience. My research revealed maintaining hopefulness was the biggest predictor of a person having a positive outcome after being widowed,” West said.

Dr. West’s research led to other research projects and was useful to SSI in developing and improving the Camp Widow® weekend, as well as the five other peer-support programs offered by SSI.

In thinking “big picture,” SSI and Dr. West began exploring the idea of developing practical tools based on the valuable research they’d already collected with a goal of making them available to a larger population of widowed people who were trying to work through their grief on their own.

As the conversation continued, the idea for developing a full-time Resilience Center that would be a resource for not only those grieving, but for anyone — students specifically — evolved. SSI’s executive director Michele Neff Hernandez and Dr. West presented the idea to William Woods, Ph.D., Dean of Liberal Arts at Schreiner University, as well as McCormick. The idea was fully embraced and the founding of the Soaring Spirits Resilience Center at Schreiner University was enthusiastically approved by both entities’ leadership teams.

The Soaring Spirits Resilience Center at Schreiner University will be located in the Social Sciences Lab. An official dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting for the Center will be held in late October 2017. “This is a dream come true for Soaring Spirits. We’re hopeful that this Center will become a valuable resource for the hundreds of thousands of people who become widowed each year; to many other grieving populations; and to the faculty, students and local community at Schreiner. I am so grateful to Schreiner University for their willingness to dream big with us and for their partnership in the work that lies ahead,” said Neff Hernandez.

About Soaring Spirits


Soaring Spirits International was established in May of 2008 to provide a unique peer-based support community for grieving people.  Up to now, this segment of the bereaved community has been underserved and often overlooked.  SSI aims to change that by leveraging a social-media-based infrastructure with key programs designed to inspire, inform, comfort, and provide practical help for the bereaved. For more information about SSI, visit the website at www.soaringspirits. org.

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