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“I took an informal survey of your weekend plans,” social studies teacher Paul Ciancio said to the auditorium of eight graders gathered for John Jay Middle School’s Veterans Day Assembly. “About half of you said you will practice your musical instruments and post videos. Twenty percent said you needed to go shopping. Fifty of you are traveling. Five are going to see a Broadway show.”
“How does it happen that you are able to do those things on a long weekend? It happens because of our honored guests.” Mr. Ciancio looked at the two dozen veterans of the US Armed Forces sitting in the front rows. “They have offered us security and protection and keep our inalienable rights intact.”
“We are honored and humbled to be in your presence,” said Principal Jeff Swiatowicz to the veterans. “We want to celebrate you and thank you for your service.”
Eighth graders provided much of the program. Ian Rhodes led the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Ryan Giner read the poem “The Flag.” Abigail Rudin spoke on heroism. Walter Oestreicher read the story, “I Packed Your Parachute.” Pierce Burke offered a history of Armistice Day.
“As young people we search for heroes,” said Pierce. “Veterans Day shows them to us.”
All John Jay Middle School students were encouraged to invite family members who had served in the military to the assembly. Veterans from the community were welcomed as well.
Lucas Mongiello, in sixth grade, invited his grandfather, Ralph Becker, a veteran who served in the Army.
“I’m a graduate of John Jay High School, “ said Becker. “Class of 1966.”
Mongiello smiled ear to ear. “I’m the class of 2025.”
Evie Pwyer, a seventh grader, brought her sister Tara Easton, a veteran of the Army. Ava Koch, an eighth grader, sat with her dad, Steven Koch, who had served with the Air Force.
The Veterans Day Assembly was initiated by Principal Swiatowicz. A committee of teachers, administrators, parents, and support staff enthusiastically collaborated. Students made welcome posters in Homebase which lined the hallway leading to the theater. Sixth graders made patriotic lapel pins for the visiting veterans with Jennifer Useted, library media specialist. Seventh graders made thank you cards which will be packed up with canned goods and delivered to various veteran assistance offices in mid-November. The PTO helped with a breakfast reception for the veterans prior to the assembly.
“We received great feedback from the veterans who attended our assembly,” said Principal Swiatowicz. “They especially appreciated the time they got to sit with our students for breakfast and the way our eighth graders made them feel welcomed and appreciated once the assembly began.”