HomeMoorestown NewsMoorestown Friends School offers Hospice and Healthcare Service Learning Class

Moorestown Friends School offers Hospice and Healthcare Service Learning Class

Moorestown Friends Upper School students have the ability to take many unique elective classes each semester. One of those is called Hospice and Healthcare Service Learning Class. The class is designed to promote awareness of the needs of families, patients and caregivers facing difficult health-care or end-of-life decisions.

“I didn’t really know what hospice was before this class. I learned a lot,” said student Rebecca Berg.

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The class is offered in the fall semester for ninth- through 12th-grade students. It was started by MFS teacher Priscilla Taylor-Williams and Sally Cezo, manager of volunteer services at Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, in 2004. Taylor-Williams wanted to put together a service course for students and saw need when there was a recent member of the school who had passed and realized that not everyone had learned or would learn about grieving when they needed it.

The purpose of the course is to help students understand the concept of living life to the fullest until death; to learn how to manage grief and how to support loved ones at a very difficult time; to understand what a quality hospice and health-care program offers to families and why it is so important; and to help out Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice specifically.

“Samaritan is a really quality hospice care approach. I’m glad they get to see what a quality institution looks like,” Taylor-Williams said.

The class works with the Lutheran Home in Moorestown, not always with hospice patients, allowing the addition of understanding of aging to the course.

Staff from Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, from social workers, therapists, chaplains and health-care staff, came into classes to explain their work so students could learn about the range of services provided in hospice care and the needs of hospice patients and their relatives.

“I give them an overview of Samaritan and talk about what we do. I invite in social workers and grief counselors, and come up with an activity on how we might present things so that they can learn from each presenter. The students are a very hard-working and interactive group. They’re wonderful, they really are. They learn a lot,” Cezo said.

The course also gives students an opportunity to gain service hours toward their graduation requirement during the school day.

Some of the class assignments include hands-on sessions for understanding the physical restrictions that sometimes accompany aging; writing a sympathy letter and obituary; creating kits for teens in the grief center; watching and discussing the movie “Tuesdays with Morrie”; learning about hospice pioneers; and sometimes collecting toiletry items for in-home hospice patients and their families.

“We watched ‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’ which showed how hard it is for the caretaker, if they are not in hospice or at home, how hard it is to take care of a person and how stressful it is. It shows how much you can take away from death. With the movie, he tried to get everything out before he died. And I felt that was really important, the idea of forgiveness. They have to forgive before they can move on,” Berg said.

“With ‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’ it’s easier to talk about someone on the screen. It helps them to open up and realize what is happening at the end of life. They have questions they have to answer and we all talk about it. Priscilla and I talk about personal things and experiences, which allows them to feel safe to open up about their own. They were nervous and scared, but really enjoyed it. It is a tough topic; it really is. Giving them that empathy and to be less afraid, that is really the goal,” Cezo said.

“It was hard to be blunt about death because you face the fact of death every time in this class. So that was kind of hard, to become comfortable with it, but eventually we did,” student Maura Diventura said.

Taylor-Williams said her favorite part of teaching the class is watching her students become more comfortable about “a very challenging topic in our culture in a way that is more positive.”

“I know they’ll seek help if a family member needs it. They’ll be able to understand the process of grief, and they’ll be more comfortable helping their friends. I want them to feel safe helping each other. I know from comments in the past that they have used them and it has helped them,” Taylor-Williams said.

“Hospice is a lot more than somewhere you’re going to go before you die. It actually is a program that helps you and wants you to get better,” student Hannah Blanco said.

“It’s a positive thing, really. It makes your death more comfortable,” added student Jessica Ferber.

Though the class will not be offered until next school year, it is an interesting class that is available for all students in the Upper School. It’s a unique class that offers important lessons on a sometimes-difficult topic.

“It always amazes me. Every year, we get more and more people taking the class. When we first started, there were about four or five kids. Now there are 15 and bigger classes. They are very eager to learn and share about this tough topic,” Cezo said.


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