“When they have services (at the National Cemetery), the VA will call us in advance so we can keep the children indoors,” Spesard said, explaining that the children might be startled by the gun salutes if they were outside.
“Our students understand what the cemetery is, but it is time to teach them what those people did for us as American citizens,” she said. “I believe it is time to explore the history of these veterans.
“We take for granted the things that deserve our gratitude,” she added, paraphrasing a quote from writer Cynthia Ozick.
While Spesard was developing the initiative, she said she was contacted by a few veterans who inquired about volunteering at the school and working with individual students or talking to entire classes.
“The veterans want to read to the kids and talk to them about values,” she said. “I would like to take some of our students over to the VA to read with the veterans and present book reports and some of the material they are learning in class.
“We owe these men and women our time and respect. It is time to give back,” she said.
The initiative will divide Meade Park’s classes into the five military branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines. Each branch will be represented by classes from each grade level. The branches then will compete weekly for attendance, behavior, citizenship and academic recognition.
“We will celebrate our successes during our family time every Monday at 7:50 a.m.,” Spesard said.
The new initiative also will help students to move beyond academics and develop values.
“We know that academics are extremely important, but intelligence isn’t the only thing needed to be successful in life,” Spesard said. “We want to empower young people who can effectively embrace concepts like critical thinking, student collaboration, data collection and personal goal setting.