Jefferson Students Share Afternoon With Area Veterans

As part of an annual tradition at Jefferson Middle School, sixth-graders spent a portion of their final school day before Veterans Day sharing food and stories with area veterans.

On Friday, the Jefferson’s sixth-grade Team Challenge hosted a Veterans Day brunch in the school’s media center, an event which sixth-grade teacher Gina Hess says has been a great opportunity for students to learn about history from those who experienced it firsthand.

“We do this every year because kids get Veterans Day off, and we think its a great real-life experience,” Hess said. “(Students) can see what the purpose of Veterans Day is, why they have a day off from school because of it and they can get outside of the textbook a little bit to hear people’s life stories.”

Hess said the annual observance of Veterans Day by Jefferson sixth-graders has been a staple at the school for more than 15 years, and it has consistently had an impact on students academically and socially.

“Academically, it allows them to learn about Veterans Day and get more from a real-life veteran, whether they served in war or not,” Hess said. “Secondly, it helps them with their social skills because they’re sitting amongst them, they’re serving and eating with them. So, it helps them twofold and makes it more real for them.”

According to Joshua Tonkin, a sixth-grader, he and his classmates spent time throughout the week preparing for the event.

“Since I was in the play and did some of the reading, we practiced that in class a lot,” Joshua said. “And then, for about three days, we were learning what Veterans Day meant and what a veteran is. To me, Veterans Day means honoring anyone who has helped our country, protected us and helped us through wars.”

In addition to a shared meal, students also provided entertainment in the form of performances. Members of the Jefferson concert band performed “America, The Beautiful,” while a number of poems were read. A group of students also performed a skit entitled, “Who Is A Veteran?,” in which they discussed the significance of the sacrifice made by veterans in service to their country.

Students also made a brief presentation on the history of Veterans Day, including facts such as: it originated in 1919 as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I the previous year, it was originally intended to honor World War I veterans and it became known as Veterans Day in 1954.

Bill Servis, a retired U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, the event at Jefferson is something he looks forward to every year.

“This is probably the fourth time I’ve been to this, and it’s great to see the kids,” Servis said. “I think all veterans should come to this. I think they’d really appreciate it, and the kids are unbelievable. We should be serving them, instead of having them serve us, because they are so fantastic. And I think it’s good for veterans because it helps them remember why they fought – for God, country and each other. So, (Veterans Day) is a pretty special day, and that’s what it’s all about.”

The event was coordinated by Hess and the other members of Sixth-Grade Team Challenge: Ruth Kriese, Olivia Nelson, Susan Schrader, Stephanie Wilson and Liz Pardue.