Veterans honored, recognized by West Chester schools

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.

Each branch of the military had a poster created by students of Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School while they sang the appropriate song or hymn on Wednesday as part of its Veteran’s Day celebration. (Candice Monhollan)

On a day where military veterans are honored and remembered, the West Chester Area School District’s students, teachers and administration had the chance to do the same through various activities on Wednesday.

From the elementary school on up, many were decked out in red, white and blue while the schools participated in unique ways.

“It is amazing to see,” said Elisha Ozer, the West Chester K through 12 social studies and library supervisor. “It’s really a strong showing that we support our veterans.”

First graders at East Bradford Elementary School had time to sit and listen to two members of the military, Lyn Senior and Jim Snyder, who is a former teacher.

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The inquisitive students were able to ask questions while four others had the opportunity to try on flight suits of a West Chester Henderson High School graduate while another brought in a family military jacket to wear.

Though it’s not the first time teacher Malia Salisbury-Jones has had her students try on the flight suits, it is the first time she has had guests in on Veteran’s Day.

“This is the first year we’ve had veterans come in,” Salisbury-Jones said. “The celebration has been getting larger and larger each year. This year, they had the opportunity to bring in pictures from their families about their American heroes and their story. It was neat because it opened up their conversations and their families about veterans.”

For students of such a young age, it may be hard for them to understand what a veteran is and events such as the one Salisbury-Jones put on is something to help them learn and appreciate who these people are.

“My first question when we started talking about it was what is a veteran?” she said. “They said it was a place you take your animals when they’re sick. I don’t think they’ll say that anymore. They truly know since we’ve been talking about it.”

All grades at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School were able to participate in a morning filled with the military and veterans.

During an assembly to start the morning, students could bring a family member who was a veteran, introduce them to the entire school and give a brief background into that person.

The veterans in attendance were also treated to each grade singing the patriotic tune for all five branches of the military.

“This came from the motivation of the staff,” said Ryan Kulesza, a teacher at Westtown-Thornbury. “We have a large connection to veterans and wanted to honor them in the most appropriate way of having a service and school-based activities.”

A Veteran’s Day Committee at the school organized the event, which started last year. It also featured some veteran guest speakers, who answer questions, and also had a closing celebration. In the hallways of the school were military artifacts for the students to see.

The staff at the school even had some connections to the day, especially teacher Lori Monaghan, whose husband is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and also teaches in the district.

“It’s wonderful that (the veterans) are being recognized,” she said. “I feel that many of the vets are not recognized. They serve their time, do what they need to do for our country, and come home and people forget about them and what they’ve done for the United States. This is wonderful that our school is honoring them and that the children are getting to know and see the importance of our vets.”

Students at Stetson Middle School had a more intimate setting with the second annual Bring a Vet to Lunch Day.

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the cafeteria, these students and their family members were treated to a lunch from Amore Pizza in West Chester, paid for by the Stetson PTO and a reduced price from Amore.

“I just wanted to do something nice for veterans and I wanted our student body to be able to show them gratitude and thankfulness for their service and I thought this would be a neat way to do it,” said Stetson teacher Kelly Franciscus.

Last year, about 60 total people participated in the lunch, but it was such a success that roughly 80 came out this time around.

“We had some students bring two veterans — a father and a grandfather — and we had some veterans who had two students — a sixth grader and an eighth grader,” Franciscus said. “They get to (have lunch) in the building with their student and meet other young people.”

Franciscus stressed having the veterans share a little piece of wisdom with the younger generation seated at the same table as them – a little piece of advice to hand out that they could hold onto forever.

“It doesn’t have to be about military experience because I know some of them are very uncomfortable talking about that,” she said. “I wanted them to share their wisdom with the young people because I feel like sometimes, as parents or teachers, it kind of goes in one ear and out the other. In a setting like this, I hope that they can’t help but feel enamored by the wisdom and wonderful people around them.”

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Categories: Community, Education, Military

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