By Erin Shanahan
Students, parents and staff at Fordham Preparatory School continued to mourn the loss of two sophomores during the past month as the school held meetings and brought in counselors to help its community cope with the tragedies.
Rev. Christopher J. Devron, S.J., president of Fordham Preparatory School, said that the Fordham University administration has been assisting the all-boys high school located on the Rose Hill campus.
“So many people at the university — from the President, Fr. McShane, S.J., to John Carroll at the Office of Public Safety — have offered us practical support, resources and special attention and care to their younger brothers at the Prep,” Devron said in an email to The Fordham Ram.
Fordham Prep is technically not part of Fordham University, having become independent in 1972.
“It’s wonderful to experience, at a time of great need, how our shared Jesuit mission transcends our institutional boundaries,” Devron said.
A Fordham Prep student was killed at Philipse Manor train station in Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County on Jan. 18. The sophomore was struck and killed by a Metro-North train after police say he deliberately stepped in front of it.
A second student from Fordham Preparatory School was fatally struck by a Metro-North train in the Bronx last week.
Prep students were made aware of the second fatality last Tuesday morning, Feb. 2, while in their small mentor groups.
“Our teachers shared the news of their classmate’s death with all students,” Devron said. “It was a very safe and protected environment.”
Fordham Prep and Fordham University brought in Dr. Amelio D’Onofrio, Clinical Professor and Director of the Psychological Services Institute. “Dr. D’Onofrio is a respected psychologist, published author and an authority in the field of adolescent mental health, self-destructive behavior, suicide and depression,” Devron said.
“The university Counseling Center also sent additional clinicians to assist our Prep counselors.”
Dr. D’Onofrio, who is an alumnus of Fordham Preparatory, and the faculty have been working with students and parents to provide information about suicide factors, risks, prevention and coping mechanisms. The school also held a special meeting with parents on Thursday regarding this information.
In addition, the Fordham Prep administration has mobilized what it calls the “Prep Crisis Team.” This team includes counselors, a clinical social worker, members of Campus Ministry, teachers and staff according to Devron. “These resources were organized in order to offer support and assistance to our student body,” he said.
Fellow Prep students supported one another following the tragedies as well. Notes with words of inspiration were posted by students on every locker at the Prep last week, saying things like, “You are loved.”
A post on Fordham Prep’s Facebook page with pictures of the notes received over 100 comments in support of the community. Fordham Prep parent Sheila Healy commented,
“I am a Prep mom. I wanted to add that this idea came from 15 students. They thought of it. Asked permission to execute it. And did it from their hearts.”
Alex Farah, Fordham Prep ’12 and FCRH ’16, reacted on Facebook to the locker photo by saying, “This is what FP is. Men for others.”
Devron also brought the community together in the University Church to celebrate a Mass of Hope and Healing on Sunday morning, Feb. 7. In his homily, Devron called for the community to stand together and continue the process of healing after such a difficult tragedy.
“Today and in the days to come, stay in the boat with your brothers and with the Lord who stills the waves and instills in us a greater wind — the Holy Spirit — God’s ultimate gift of peace and calm,” Devron said in his homily, “With the Holy Spirit’s peace problems get transformed into possibilities, negatives turn to positives, defeat into victory, stumbling blocks into stepping stones and crucifixions into resurrections.”
Devron called for Fordham University students to help look out for their younger counterparts at the Prep.
“Since Prep and university students share the same campus, if you encounter a Prep student on campus about whom you are worried, please contact the Office of Public Safety or our Dean of Students, Mr. Steve Pettus by calling the Prep at (718) 367-7500. Taking that first step is very important.”
Dr. Jeffrey Ng, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Fordham University, also called for Fordham students to take action and help prevent suicide.
“As a community, I think it’s critically important for us to recognize that mental health and suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” Ng said.
“Framing vulnerability as a normal part of the human experience and help-seeking as a sign of strength contributes significantly to reducing suicide risk on campus, especially in the context of recent tragedies like those at Fordham Prep.”
Devron asked the Fordham community to continue offering support for the students at the Prep.
“Times like this remind us of both the fragility and the value of life,” he told The Fordham Ram.
“May your Jesuit education at Fordham and our collective reflection on these tragedies, inspire in all of us a greater commitment to become ‘women and men for others.’”
Fordham’s Dean of Students Christopher Rodgers provided the following information about resources for students in crisis:
In any emergency, please call Public Safety at (718) 817-2222 immediately. At Rose Hill, counseling is available through Counseling and Psychological Services in the basement of O’Hare Hall: (718) 817-3725 or by calling Campus Ministry at (718) 817-4500.
Students may also contact Christopher Rodgers, dean of students at Rose Hill, at (718) firstname.lastname@example.org or their resident assistant or resident director for assistance. Members of the University community can also call Public Safety at any time at (718) 817-2222 with questions about counseling services or requests for assistance.