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Trees planted in students' memory

June 06, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO ? A May 31 Celebration of Life at the Boonsboro High School campus was an opportunity for students, faculty and others to share their feelings about the deaths of a number of classmates during the 2005-06 school year.

"There were six trees planted ? five for students and one to remind all of us that every day is special," said Sevan Birky, the mother of a Boonsboro High School student who attended the celebration.

Birky said she counted 44 in attendance at the evening celebration. The trees were donated by New Life Garden Center on Lappans Road; Mountainside and Sunny Meadows, both of Boonsboro; and Lovell's and Snavely's, both on Leitersburg Pike.

Such an organized expression of grief is part of the healing process and that is healthy, said Dave Spurrier, one of three guidance counselors at the school.

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Spurrier, a six-year veteran at Boonsboro High, works with Anna Lofton and Amy Keyfauver, both of whom have been at the school for three years.

When students die ? whether in accidents or from illnesses ? a crisis team of trained volunteers can be activated from Washington County Public Schools to meet the needs of students, staff and faculty at a school.

Calls usually are made and an assembly is quickly planned for the crisis team and the school faculty. The next step is to decide how to make the announcement to the students.

A letter from the principal usually follows with details about funeral services, the establishment of funds and procedure for sharing feelings about the tragedy.

"Then we are here to deal with the situation through our regular contact with kids and faculty," Spurrier said.

Accidents, fires and illnesses affecting students are the most common situations. But there are cases in which parents or grandparents die and students need to know they have someone to talk with them.

Boonsboro High School has more than 1,000 students and approximately 60 faculty members.  

"It's a given that you'll be faced with these duties," Spurrier said. "We've all had training in the rudiments of grief counseling."

In the case of the May 31 memorial, Lofton said approval had to be given for that to occur.

"They dedicated the trees and focused on the positive," she said.

Lofton agreed with Spurrier that building relationships with students is a big part of the counselors' job. With those bonds in place, students know they can share their feelings and concerns.

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