Area school counselors awarded for helping students grieve family losses

Amy Moorman, a 23-year veteran school counselor at Lakota's Adena Elementary, was surprised and honored this week by officials from a local bereavement assistance organization for her work in counseling grieving students who have suffered the deaths of parents, siblings and other families members. Companions on a Journey (COJ) officials presented Moorman - and two other local school counselors - with trophies and school presentations this week. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

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Amy Moorman, a 23-year veteran school counselor at Lakota's Adena Elementary, was surprised and honored this week by officials from a local bereavement assistance organization for her work in counseling grieving students who have suffered the deaths of parents, siblings and other families members. Companions on a Journey (COJ) officials presented Moorman - and two other local school counselors - with trophies and school presentations this week. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

Amy Moorman has been a counselor at Adena Elementary for 23 years but she has never seen anything like the recent school years and the stress on students learning under the shadow of the coronavirus.

But it’s Moorman performance during the pandemic in helping grieving students who have lost loved ones — from Covid and other causes — that saw her among the three winners this week of an annual award from Companions on a Journey.

The COJ, which provides bereavement counseling to students, their families and schools in southwest Ohio, surprised Moorman — and winning counselors in Hamilton and Middletown schools — with award presentations Tuesday at their schools.

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Moorman said she was surprised to have been chosen for the annual Hope, Strength and Healing Award.

“I got a phone call (from COJ officials) after a long day of parent-teacher conferences,” telling her of the honor, which includes a trophy.

She gets a trophy but Moorman said the honor reflects on many more who work with her.

“It really isn’t about me as much as all the people who have shown me hope — and shown me strength and how I can teach others based on what I’ve learned from them,” she said.

This year’s other two Butler County school counselors recognized were Kristen Grande, who works with students at Middletown Middle School and Laura Hord, a counselor at Hamilton’s Garfield Middle School.

COJ, which began in as a bereavement program at Liberty Twp.’s St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in 1997, has been presenting the Hope, Strength and Healing Award each November – which is National Children’s Grief Awareness Month – for more than a decade.

Co-founder and now Executive Director Sheila Munafo-Kanoza said the recognition for school counselors is just one aspect of COJ’s “variety of monthly school and community-based support groups to meet each person wherever they are on their grief journey.”

“1 in 11 children in Ohio will experience the death of a parent or sibling by their 18th birthday,” said Munafo-Kanoza after presenting Moorman’s award during a ceremony at Lakota’s Adena Elementary in West Chester Twp.

And that statistic, she said, was prior to the onset of the coronavirus in March of 2020. Undoubtably, she added, the number of area school children who have experienced family members – and extended family and friends’ families – dying during the pandemic has likely increased that ratio.

“At Adena Elementary we have three groups of students who come together once a month,” in the wake of their losses from the passing of parents, siblings or grandparents, said Munafo-Kanoza.

“And our goal is to follow them through their graduation.”

Moorman has gone “above and beyond” in meeting with grieving Adena students throughout each month at the school, said Munafo-Kanoza.

Moorman said the biggest difference between pre-pandemic student counseling and assisting all students – those grieving and those dealing with less impactful events – is “there is a lot more uncertainty about how things are going to move forward.”

“They are a little more settled now (this school year) but the anxiety … and they are still uncertain about how to handle the emotions that are coming their way. Things are better this school year but there still are a lot of challenges for students,” she said.

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