Castle View senior makes great impression at mortuary
CASTLE ROCK – Working in a mortuary isn’t something that would appeal to most high school students, but Sierra Suazo isn’t typical. She couldn’t wait for her internship at Olinger Andrews Caldwell Gibson Chapel in Castle Rock.
The Castle View High School senior was a participant in the school’s internship program and recently spoke about the experience during a presentation.
“Funerals definitely freak a lot of people out. It makes everyone a little uncomfortable,” Suazo said. “If you find yourself comfortable with that kind of stuff, this is definitely a place you should be, because there are not a lot of people who can.
She is interested in eventually working for a coroner’s office, but thought the idea of working at a mortuary sounded intriguing.
“I wanted to see what it was like,” Suazo said. “People think that it is just poking around and putting makeup on dead people. It is a lot more than that.”
Sierra’s mother encouraged her to follow her passion.
“I told her, ‘you’ve got to go for it and see how are around that stuff.’ She ended up having a great time,” said Kathy Suazo.
Sierra would often come home excited about her work and wanting to share everything with her family around the dinner table.
“[Her father] was a bit turned off by it, especially when he was trying to eat and she was talking about it,” Kathy Suazo said with a laugh.
In addition to helping with a variety of tasks around the funeral home, Sierra also worked to create a guide about different religious beliefs, when it comes to putting a loved one to rest.
“It is very difficult because you want to make sure that you respect everyone,” Sierra Suazo said. “One wrong move, one wrong thing said can throw off everything. You can lose a case and a family will not want to work with you ever again.”
The twelfth-grader says she didn’t know much about Buddhist or Sikh faiths before, but she believes her research will help her to navigate difficult situations in the future.
“This has taught me a lot because you need to know basics about what is acceptable and what is not. If some people don’t think cremation is acceptable and you bring it up as an option and they are totally offended by it, then you’ve lost that family’s respect. It is absolutely important that you know what you are dealing with,” Sierra Suazo said. “When you’ve disrespected family, you’ve disrespected their beliefs, they can not have the funeral they want. They don’t feel their loved one has been properly put to rest and that is an unsettling feeling for everyone involved.”
Rick Tolka, Sierra’s host at Olinger Andrews Caldwell Gibson Chapel says the literature will be very helpful for his staff.
This is the third intern they’ve worked with from the program and in every case they’ve had a great experience.
“All three that we have had have been very far ahead in having good values, good work ethics and good presentation. They were always well-dressed, always on time. It has been a good experience throughout,” Tolka said. “You see a lot of adults that do not have it together like these kids in high school do. That is a testament to the program, to the parents and to everyone involved. It brings out the best in these kids and prepares them for a good job.”
“Seeing them really raises your optimism for the generation coming up,” Tolka added. “You hear a lot of negatives [about this generation], you see a lot of stuff that is not good, but then you meet one personally, like Sierra, and you see a lot of good stuff going on. We could hire her next week to work in our funeral home.”
That is exactly what they have done before.
“The first one that came through the door – we hired her. Two years ago, she worked a summer for us, while she was home from college,” Tolka said. “We were happy to have her. We knew what we were getting.”
Sierra is definitely keeping that in mind, as she sets her sights on college and a future career.
“It is incredibly amazing. I am so blessed that we have this here,” Sierra Suazo said. “It allows you to dip your toe in the water before you go to college and spend all the money taking these classes and come to realize that it is not for you.”