Patrick Cho ’13 featured in Chronicle of Higher Education
Patrick Cho ’13 was recently featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education in an article about student bereavement on college campuses.
The article, “Campuses Offer Policies and Support Groups for Students Facing Loss,”considers the difficulties college students face when grappling with the challenges of facing both classwork and processing grief.
Cho can speak to that issue firsthand: he took a leave of absence from Centre his sophomore year to care for his ailing mother, who later passed away after battling multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Upon returning to campus, Cho noticed a void for students dealing with grief, so he founded a chapter of Students of AMF (which previously stood for Ailing Mothers and Fathers, now standing for Actively Moving Forward) that has grown in the past year.
“I was contacted by David Fajgenbaum, the founder and head of the national organization of AMF,” Cho says. “I have done some work for AMF nationally and he thought my story might be interesting and a good representative of how students might become involved with the group.”
In the Chronicle article, Cho discusses feeling isolated from his peers because of what he was going through—despite the fact that numerous other students are also dealing with the suffering or death of a loved one.
“Research shows that 22 to 33 percent of college students are within one year of grieving the death of a close friend or family member. Centre’s campus is no exception. Death isn’t talked about a lot in college, but it does happen,” Cho says. “Centre is a small school, and most people know, or at least recognize, everyone else. Yet death is never discussed. It’s astonishing to see how many people attend support group meetings that I had no idea had experienced a loss.”
Other students featured in the article faced more difficulties in working with their schools to find accommodation for their unique situations—something that showed Cho that there is still work to be done.
“We’ve made strides, but still death and grief are issues that are barely mentioned—or even thought of—by many students,” he says. “I’d hope that having an organization like AMF will help raise the profile of bereavement on campus and make students—and faculty and staff—more aware about grief among college students and the unique challenges and hardships this universal experience brings to many people during what are supposed to be the happiest years of your life.”
Through sharing his experience with the educational community, Cho hopes he can in some way impact others also dealing with grief and help them to find support.
“It was an honor to be asked to be featured in the article as an example for the thousands of bereaved students across the country. More than that, though, I really hope sharing my story can help others who have experienced a loss,” Cho says. “These experiences are deeply personal, some of the most intimate moments of your life, and it takes some courage to be open and share with complete strangers. However, often, sharing your own story, trusting others with your own story, is the first step towards helping others deal with their grief—all the more so if someone is trying to start a group like Students of AMF. I just hope that in sharing my story I’ve given other bereaved students the encouragement to share their own stories and help their friends.”
Cho is proud of the role Students of AMF now plays at Centre, and he is hopeful that it will continue to be a resource for grieving students in years to come.
“One of the most valuable aspects of Students of AMF has been the ability to connect people who share this common bond and support one another. AMF has really filled a niche; the more we grow, the more apparent it is just how important Students of AMF is on campus,” he says. “I hope my lasting legacy would be to see a new group of officers take on leadership positions and continue to grow this organization to help grieving students in the future.”
For more on Students of AMF, click here.