All students at Chenoweth Elementary School, a Transitional Kindergarten through Grade 6 campus in Merced, attended an outdoor Veteran’s Day ceremony put on by their Leadership Council at the start of the school day on Nov. 8.
Kyndra Hickman, a sixth grade Math and Science teacher, organized the ceremony. Hickman is a Leadership Advisor at Chenoweth, along with Sheryl Wight and School Principal Vance d’Escoto.
Leadership is composed of fourth through sixth grade students. Any student who desires to be on the Leadership Council fills out an application explaining why and provides one letter of recommendation.
Hickman told the Times, “We have 40 members in Leadership.”
During the ceremony, the Leadership group stood in front of the assembled students.
Three sixth graders, Mariah Gomez, Gia Martinez-Howell, and Reese Martinez, welcomed the veterans and fellow students and led the recitations of two poems.
Gomez welcomed the approximately 20 veterans in attendance, who were invited to the assembly by students. After the ceremony, those veterans went to the classrooms of the students they were connected to and talked about their experience and service in the military.
Martinez-Howell introduced the first poem, “The Bravest Man I Know,” and its meaning.
The third student, Reese Martinez, introduced the second poem, “Because of You, Unknown Soldier.”
The Leadership students had cards which they held during the recitation of the poems. On the front was a picture of a veteran, who could be a relative who was in the military or someone who had served who had lost their life, and on the back was the poem they were going to recite.
Some of the pictures on the cards were of local residents who had lost their lives within the last 10 years.
Hickman told the Times, “My daughter used a picture of her grandfather, who had fought in the Korean War.
“The Leadership class spent some time learning about why we celebrate Veteran’s Day.
“We spent some time understanding that Veteran’s Day is not just a day off, it’s about showing gratitude for the veterans making our country a better place.
“We spent time looking up Arlington National Cemetery online. We watched the Changing of the Guards of the Unknown Soldier’s tomb. (There are soldiers that they are unable to identify, and they have a changing of the guards ceremony.)
“By watching this online, the kids understood the poem “Because of You, Unknown Soldier” by Courtney Tanabe.
“We talked about the verses and what they meant — for the soldiers to have done this for us, the future children, whom they had never met.
“We found a poem that was written by a middle schooler who is now an adult, “The Bravest Man I Know” by Amanda Whitney. I thought that was important because they are about that age she was when she wrote it and can relate to it.”
Hickman concluded, “We talked about how important it is for us to work as a team because the veterans have been working as a team to protect us as a nation for hundreds of years and it’s important to honor those who have served for us in our community.”