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June 24, 2021

SVSU students create memorial garden for grieving children

Roberts Fellows partner with Children’s Grief Center on service project

Five members of SVSU’s Roberts Fellowship Program have created a place for children from the Great Lakes Bay Region to memorialize their loved ones. The students devised the garden as their service project, which is a component of the Roberts Fellowship. The garden is located near the entrance to the Children’s Grief Center’s new headquarters at 4708 James Savage Road, Midland. 

On Saturday, May 1, 11 children and their families, who participate in Children’s Grief Center groups in Midland, Bay City and Saginaw, attended the “Growing Grief Into Gardens” event at the Center’s new office. Children were invited to plant a flower and paint rocks in memory of their loved ones who had passed away.

“We decided we wanted to work with the Children’s Grief Center because of the pandemic,” said Madelene Cifrulak, a nursing major from Midland. “Everyone has experienced loss in some way this past year.

“We decided to plan a garden project because being outside and working with your hands is therapeutic for most people. Also, the process of planting something, tending to it and watching it grow reflects the grieving process,” she said.

The 2020-2021 Roberts Fellowship cohort consisted of 10 students. They split into two groups of five to work on service projects. The memorial garden group included:

  • Marisa Cardinalli, of Saginaw, a May 2021 graduate with a degree in political science
  • Madelene Cifrulak, a nursing major from Midland who expects to graduate in 2022
  • Brady Faler, of Saint Johns, a May 2021 graduate with a computer science major who will be working with Rocket Mortgage in Detroit
  • Nathan Hankerson, a biology major from Novi, who expects to graduate in December 2021 and plans to attend medical school
  • Grace Kendziorski, a political science major from Auburn who expects to graduate in 2022

Children’s Grief Center Executive Director Camille Gerace Nitschky, said, “We were delighted with the wonderful event we had on Saturday, Growing Grief Into Gardens, created by the Robert Fellows. Their thoroughness in the planning and then bringing it all together with our children, teens and families was so incredible after not seeing our kids for the last year except in Zoom meetings. It was beyond what we could have ever hoped for, and we will have our Grief Gardens for years to come to honor our people that have died.” 

The Roberts Fellowship Program focuses on leadership from a global perspective. Each year, approximately 10 outstanding students from a range of disciplines participate in the year-long program, attending weekly seminars, engaging in a year-long service project, and interacting with campus and community leaders.   

The Roberts Fellowship Program was established through a gift from Donna Roberts, who served as corporate secretary and assistant general counsel of Dow in the 1990s.