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Student group Actively Moving Forward and the Vice Provost for Education worked together to create guidelines for students grieving the death or illness of a family member.

Photo: Courtesy of Actively Moving Forward / Actively Moving Forward

The student group Actively Moving Forward, in conjunction with the Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein, recently crafted a policy and resource guide for student bereavement at the University of Pennsylvania.

Actively Moving Forward is a nationwide network of peer-led support groups for students grieving the loss or illness of a loved one. Penn’s chapter worked last semester to address Penn’s lack of formal grief policy through the creation of a bereavement resource and policy guide as part of the Vice Provost for University Life’s online Pennbook — a collection of policies related to student life at Penn.

A member of AMF’s leadership team and College junior Patrick Zancolli said that the lack of a clear grieving policy at Penn prompted the group to work with Penn’s administration to coordinate more specific guidelines for bereavement and grief support issues for students.

“We’ve seen examples that other schools have done with websites that are very clear and policies that are very concisely explained to students,” Zancolli said. “We felt that that wasn’t the case at Penn.”

Another member of AMF’s leadership team and Wharton senior Sophie Erhardt said the presence of a student support group at Penn to help those in grieving is invaluable in reassuring students they are not alone in what they are experiencing.

“It’s easy to feel, especially in an environment like Penn, that you’re the only one who’s going through this, and you have to keep going and keep doing everything else that you’re doing,” Erhardt said. “As much as people are supporting you, no one really gets it.”

AMF is now listed on VPUL’s Pennbook — under “Resources for Student Bereavement” — as a student group that offers peer-led services, complementing those of Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of the Chaplain and Student Intervention Services.

Erhardt said that this new development for VPUL and AMF was aimed at ensuring that students can easily navigate the resources at their disposal and find the type of help they need.

“We want students to be able to navigate on their own,” Erhardt said. “We don’t want a student out there who feels kind of alone, who feels like there are no resources out there to help them.”

Assistant Director for Education Jennifer Canose said she recognized that the lack of clear communication on student bereavement policies at Penn was an issue that needed to be resolved.

“There is a plethora of resources at Penn and our office is really interested in trying to figure out how to help our students best navigate these resources,” Canose said. “We want to help build that network and encourage students to reach out to AMF.”

The group has also recently received recognition from the Student Activities Council, providing them with extra funding to further capitalize on their improved outreach this year.

“A component of the national organization that we’ve lacked recently is service projects,” Zancolli said. “Now that we have that SAC recognition, we have the capability to transport our members to some sort of event that’s not in Philadelphia.”

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