Funeral services department anticipates move into its new home in the Career Tech building

The new educational building for the funeral services department will create an “immersive” and updated experience for students

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The site for the new funeral services building at American River College, will replace the existing FSE portable near Auto Tech, on the main campus, in Fall 2021. (Photo by Ben Kynaston )

Ben Kynaston, Staff Writer

American River College’s funeral services program has seen some expansion in its student body since the beginning of the spring semester and the department is anticipating a move into a new Career Tech building, according to Funeral Services Education department head Nathan Skelton.

“The most exciting news for the program is the construction of the new Career Tech building that is going to house the FSE program upon completion,” Skelton said in an email to The Current.  “We will have a working mortuary, complete with prep room, restorative art lab, arrangement offices, selection room and chapel.”

This complete suite of buildings will allow students an opportunity to get hands-on experience with all the areas that students will work in when they graduate.

“The educational experience for the students will be totally immersive,” Skelton said. “They will gain unprecedented access and experience to all the areas of funeral service and will be more than prepared to step into virtually any role in the funeral home immediately upon graduating.”

This anticipated return to campus in the new building will provide an immersive environment for the program’s growing student body.

“We had the biggest cohort the program has seen to date begin in January this year,” Skelton said. “The engagement of students is different than being in the physical classroom, but due to the nature and personality of our program, I believe there still exists a camaraderie among the cohort, even if they have never met some of the classmates in person.”

Hanna Broyles-Grundy, who started the program in January, says she was excited by the idea of an intimate department where she could develop relationships with like-minded peers who were in nearly all of her classes. 

“We were told that because we would all be going into a fairly small funeral community, we would probably end up working with each other in the field,” Broyles-Grundy said. “I was pretty excited to be making friends with my classmates and creating connections with each other for the future.”
However, this smaller program was eventually disrupted by the move to online learning after the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020

“COVID-19 kind of killed those connections,” Broyles-Grundy said.  “It was very sudden and made it hard to keep up with each other and maintain our friendships. I feel like that was a really tough downfall for a lot of us, losing that chance to make connections.”

While the actual program hasn’t changed much according to Skelton, COVID-19 and the move to online learning has still made an impact on students, socially and academically.

“For me personally, in-person class was 100% better for me because I get distracted easily and it makes it much more difficult to stay on task in class,” Broyles-Grundy said. “Education-wise, the move to online classes was definitely a hardship since I work at home, providing childcare for my friend’s three boys, as well as my two daughters. So, I have been pretty isolated from adult company for over a year.”

Despite this isolation and trouble with concentration, Broyles-Grundy said she still feels confident and passionate about funeral services and that the transition wasn’t all bad.

“There are a few good things about the change; it’s easier to commute and teachers have been very understanding about problems with internet connection, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth it, I would rather go to a space that is specifically for learning,” Broyles-Grundy said.

Luckily for Broyles-Grundy and her peers, a return to campus in a new building near Auto Tech is on the horizon, though the exact construction timeline is unknown.