A new organization on campus provides an alternative to traditional counseling for UWG students. Actively Moving Forward (AMF) is a student-led organization dedicated to offering support to students grieving the death or illness of a loved one.
“AMF was there for me when I lost my mom a year ago,” said Anna Carrandi, president of AMF. “I struggled with the loss of my mom for a while, and grieving alone made me feel isolated. When I attended my first AMF meeting, I immediately felt welcomed, and I was surrounded by other students who were experiencing the same emotions I was feeling. I felt like they understood what I was going through.”
Carrandi said there are about 10 active members in the chapter so far. She is working daily to increase awareness about the new chapter as much as she can.
“Our chapter meets for one hour, twice a month,” said Carrandi. “During our meetings, we have snacks and participate in fun activities, like games or arts and crafts, and at some point in our meetings we will talk and share what we are feeling or a memory of someone.”
Nationally, AMF has over 50 collegiate chapters, and each chapter has a dedicated faculty advisor available to assist and guide the organization. Since AMF is solely for students, advisors take a hands-off approach and are not involved with chapter meetings or community service projects.
“AMF is 100 percent student-led, and that is why we are not the typical support group or therapy session,” said Carrandi. “Therapy and counseling is often stigmatized and typical one-on-one couch sessions can feel intimidating to some people. Our organization is all about creating a space where everyone can feel comfortable and where students can meet and connect with other students and express themselves.”
Carrandi works closely with the chapter’s faculty advisor Dr. Mary Varga to ensure the chapter is providing adequate support for it its members. Varga is an assistant professor in the College of Education. She has worked with AMF for four years and has conducted research and written articles on how the college experience is affected by grieving.
“This organization is great because it allows students to share an experience with someone going through something similar,” said Varga. “Research shows that this method works. Some students respond better when sharing their experiences among peers.”
Another way AMF is unlike traditional methods of therapy is how it participates in community service initiatives. AMF is also classified as a service organization, meaning they host community service projects to contribute to the community and to raise awareness about grief support for young adults.
“Our organization is just trying to make it easier for students to move forward through grief and death,” said Carrandi. “We want to do something to help make a difference in our community and, at the same time, share and cherish the memories we have of the loved ones that are ill or have passed away. One of the ways we commemorate them is by coming together and doing something good in the community.”