Kalifornsky Beach Elementary students give high-fives to (from left) Roy Gordon, Scott Rauen, Roy Papageorge and Tristan Woods at the end of a veterans assembly Nov. 9 at the school.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District students gathered in the Soldotna Elementary School library Wednesday to spread some holiday cheer as far away as Washington, D.C., in the form of green snowmen, lopsided Christmas trees and the occasional one-eyed Santa.
Budding artists, some as young as 18 months old up to middle-school age, attended the district's annual holiday card-making party after school Nov. 7. The students decorated hundreds of holiday cards that the school district will send out to community organizations, businesses, government agencies, elected representatives and others who have made an impact on the district over the year.
Seven years ago Schools Superintendent Donna Peterson wanted to send something unique for the annual holiday mailings, rather than store-bought cards. She asked Jean Dixon if her Kenai Middle School leadership class would be willing to help. They were and a mutually beneficial, if messy, tradition was born.
"They learn how to volunteer and how much fun it is," Dixon said of her KMS leadership students. "I would hope in the future maybe they would coordinate something like this on their own."
Kenai Middle School student Sarah Evenson gives encouragement to Soldotna Elementary student Jaden Perry as he decorates a holiday card Nov. 7 in the Soldotna Elementary library.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
The leadership students were decked out in their yellow and purple tie-dyed class shirts and red Santa hats. They kept busy handing out snacks, art supplies, advice and the occasional paper towel to the artists, who got to choose from water paints, crayons, colored pencils and construction paper.
"It's pretty fun. They all get to do what they want," said Kenai Middle eighth-grader Kyle Scarlett. "It's really fun. You get to help the little kids."
The results of the collaboration were as colorful as the KMS students' shirts. A few elves had too many fingers and a few reindeer might have been missing a leg, but the creativity involved in the cards was only topped by the enthusiasm that went into making them.
Not all cards were artworks only mothers could love. Occasional comments of "check out this elf" and "that Santa is cool" could be heard from the middle-schoolers.
"One kid had a card with a sleigh and a house and Santa. It was really, really good," Kyle said.
Veterans Day comes to life at K-Beach
For elementary school-aged kids, Veterans Day could rank among Presidents Day or Columbus Day as holidays that may be observed in class, but don't have much meaning beyond the lesson.
That was not the case Friday at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School as students started the day with an assembly that brought the observance to life with a visit from veterans and current servicemen in uniform.
Veterans Day receives special attention at K-Beach each year, starting with a Veterans Wall of Honor where students, staff and community members are invited to display pictures and information about the service members in their families. School custodian Steve Wright, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, organizes the wall of honor display and the annual veterans assembly.
This year's assembly included presentations by veterans from several branches and eras of service. World War II veteran Roy Gordon spoke about traversing the North Atlantic with the Merchant Marines and how sailors had to put pillows around them in their bunks to keep from banging into metal bulkheads while the ship tossed in the waves.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Tristan Woods, with the U.S. Coast Guard, talked about his job keeping people safe in the waters of Cook Inlet and the Kenai River.
Jack Hamill, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam before becoming a guardsman, had two K-Beach students in particular to greet - his grandchildren Carson and Savannah.
Sgt. Roy Papageorge told the audience about being a recruiter for the Marines, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Rauen said he was fourth-generation Navy.
Representing the Army was Misty McCown, a familiar face at K-Beach since she is a special education aide there. Her Army background, or perhaps it was her experience in education, gave her the bravery to open herself up to questions from the audience. The questions left her explaining the difference between peacetime, which she served in, and wartime.
"How did you survive?"
"Did you ever remove a bullet from somebody?"
After the presentations Wright invited all students and staff with relatives in the military to stand up in the middle of the gym. He handed out yellow ribbon magnets to each student that were "your very own. Not your parents' or your brother's or sister's."
The assembly ended with a round of "You're a Grand Old Flag." As students filed off to class they detoured past the servicemen to shake hands and give high-fives, getting an early start on Rauen's advice to honor veterans.
"Go back and talk to your grandparents and ask them about their history," he had said in his presentation. "... They made this country what it is today. So go home and hug a veteran."
Jenny Neyman is the communications specialist with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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