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MSD students, NSU faculty discussed art and therapy

Panel marked second anniversary of school shooting

In February, some Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Students joined NSU College of Psychology faculty for a panel on art that the students created after the school shooting that changed their lives.

“I wanted a calming, easy way to distract myself, so I started painting in December 2018,” said Olivia Feldman, who was in her sophomore year at the time of the shooting and graduated from MSD this year. “It clears my mind and helps me feel happy.”


Feldman said some of her school friends also turned to art, and she said participating in the panel helped them express some closure over the shooting before going their separate ways in college.

The immediate aftermath of the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting was highly personal for Feldman’s father, David Feldman, Ph.D., now an Associate Professor at the College of Psychology.

“My initial instinct was to volunteer for everything, but a colleague told me that I can’t be everywhere,” said David Feldman, whose professional background is in crisis and trauma. “I couldn’t be a professional and be dad. I wanted to do my job, but as a parent I had to step back.”

Associate Professor Peter Caproni, Ph.D., another panelist, was on hand following the shooting to coordinate a team of faculty and students providing debriefing, crisis management, and risk assessment at neighboring Westglades Middle School.

“It was inspiring in terms of seeing the resilience of the kids in their efforts to cope with such a tremendous, shocking tragedy,” Caproni said of his work at the middle school.

Caproni said it was heartwarming to see the display of art that was part of the survivors’ healing process. Panelist Tara Jungersen, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Counseling, also participated in the post-shooting response.

“Not everybody has either the desire or the ability to verbally process a trauma, and of a mass shooting, because you're trying to make sense out of something that is a senseless act of violence,” Jungersen said. “I think that's where art therapy is beneficial.”


For Olivia Feldman and the rest of her graduating class, current events had another impact on her time at school. The closure of public schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant the cancellation of many typical senior year activities like prom and grad night, as well as their graduation ceremony. Despite the unexpected ending to her senior year and moving on to a different college than her friends, Olivia Feldman said her experiences at MSD strengthened her desire to go into the medical field and help people.

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