FCMS counselor receives MPE grant to fund art therapy

by Sean Dunlap

Franklin County Middle School seventh and eighth grade counselor Amber Combs has earned a classroom grant through the Mississippi Professional Educators organization that will fund her innovative art therapy program for students.

Combs’ “Counseling with Creativity” outreach seeks to infuse pottery and ceramics to allow students to explore their inner thoughts, feelings and emotions while reducing stress, depression and anxiety.

“My inspiration for the project is based on a desire to combine two of my passions — helping children and art,” Combs said.

“From personal experience, I know how art has helped me to find a peaceful balance with the stresses of life, and it provides a creative outlet to express myself. I wanted to offer that to our students.

“Middle school students have a lot of new emotions and experiences they face daily. Art therapy gives them a safe place to explore those feelings and learn healthy strategies to cope with stress.”

Combs’ project is the continuation of and an enhancement to her already established art therapy program.

“Each school year, my mission is to add more tools and materials to give our students access to equipment and experiences they can utilize to become more self-aware and self-confident,” she continued.

Combs, a resident of Franklin County’s Roxie community, has worked as a professional school counselor at FCMS for more than 10 years.

“I have been very fortunate to work in school district that understands the importance of addressing the needs of the whole child, and work with administrators who have given me the freedom to create a comprehensive counseling program that addresses those needs,” she added.

“I’m inspired by students who have experienced and lived with trauma, yet still come to school and try. Personally, I want to see every child succeed. Professionally, I want to offer students the tools they need to succeed in life.”

Founded in 1979, MPE is a state-wide professional association with around 13,500 teachers, administrators and non-certified staff from kindergarten to graduate school level as members.

Combs has been an MPE member since 2011.

The group’s priority is student education and achievement by awarding up to $40,000 in classroom grants for MPE members to enhance instructional offerings or educational experiences.