New RSO helps grieving students

By Marie MacCune

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

Students of Actively Moving Forward, a newly registered student organization at the University of Massachusetts, is helping students cope with the deaths of loved ones.

Students of AMF was founded by sophomore Katie Charbonneau, an English and journalism major, after she lost her father in December.

According to Charbonneau, Students of AMF is a national organization with 64 official chapters. There are three other chapters in Massachusetts: at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University. The UMass chapter is the first public chapter in the state.

Charbonneau said she found out about the organization after researching grief services and organizations for college students.

“It’s been a very, very difficult experience,” she said. “It’s hard to feel lonely on such a large campus but I definitely did. I can’t imagine what it’s like for other students who are grieving too. I want Students of AMF to be a place they can go to.”

According to Charbonneau, one in three students will lose someone close to them during their time in college.

“The chapter includes two parts of one organization,” she said. “The first is a peer-led support group specifically for grieving students. The other is a service group, where anyone can get involved. What we would do for service is get involved in things like Relay for Life as a way for students to contribute to other organizations important to them.”

Charbonneau also said Students of AMF provides guidance in ways psychological services on campus do not.

“I want use the group to help students reach out the University and professors about what is going on in their life,” she said. “I want to help them navigate the system and make sure they are getting the time and accommodation they need. There (is) bereavement time policies for staff, but none for students, and changing that is something I want to look into.”

Charbonneau mentioned the important role fellow students played in her decision to found the group, saying, “I work in residential life and I think being a peer mentor has given me so much hope and support. I think my coworkers have changed my life. They were there for me when I really needed them and now they’re here for me getting the word out about Students of AMF.”

In terms of reception on campus, Charbonneau said, “So far it’s been really great. We’re only two weeks old, but the grieving students with us seem to be really happy and appreciative. Because it is something so many people will go through, I think Students of AMF will really benefit the campus.”

“I’m really looking forward to next semester and having the support and service group fully engage,” she said. “I still have to go through some training to make it an active organization.”

In the future, Charbonneau wants to expand the group by involving the Five Colleges, the Office of Religious Life and psychological services.

Any students interested in UMass’ chapter of Students of AMF should contact [email protected].

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MarieMacCune.