New Castle News

New Castle

November 12, 2013

JFK students observe Veterans Day

NEW CASTLE — Students at New Castle’s John F. Kennedy Primary Center have spent weeks preparing for Veterans Day.

They’ve been practicing patriotic songs, making paper “dog tags” to wear and joined other district students in selling T-shirts to raise money for homeless veterans.

Their work culminated Monday with a program at the school’s entrance.

The students waved flags and enthusiastically sang several patriotic songs under the direction of music teacher Leaha Parady, including “We Are All American, Me and You,” “Oh, I Love America” and “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Then they stood at attention, wearing their dog tags, as Staff Sgt. Matthew Claycomb of Ellwood City, attached to the National Guard Armory in New Castle, lowered the flag outside the school.

He used third-graders Madison Ruddek, Alexia Falba, Markus Evans and Nigan Mitchell to demonstrate the proper way to retire a flag.

Claycomb then raised a new flag that state Rep. Chris Sainato had presented to Dr. Carmen Nocera, elementary principal.

Nocera and John Sarandrea, New Castle superintendent, presented a $1,000 check for homeless veterans to Butler Veterans Administration representatives. Accepting the donation raised by the T-shirt sales were Melinda Hogue, chief of social work services, Ron Christopher, homeless support specialist, and Dan Slack, coordinator of the homeless veterans program.

Nocera said $500 from the T-shirt sales is being donated to the Albert Gettings Foundation in New Castle.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Kotch of the 377th Army Reserves, whose son, Nathaniel Kotch, is a first-grader at Kennedy, also spoke.

He urged those present to send letters to any deployed soldier they know. He said such communication means a lot to a soldier away from home.

First-grade teacher Debbie Coyne served as mistress of ceremonies.

New Castle Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo and about 100 parents also attended the program, which was followed by a reception.

At Mohawk’s elementary school, Kristy Bailey’s fifth-grade social studies students just completed a unit on veterans and the military. Their teacher asked if any of the students had relatives who had served their country.

The result was seven people who spoke to the youngsters while displaying some military memorabilia. They were: Warren Beckinger, Army veteran; Michael Ferraro Sr., Navy veteran of World War II; Scott McClain, Army veteran of Vietnam; Fabio Papotto, who served in the Italian military; Robert Yeager, currently serving in the Army; William Yeager, who served in Vietnam; and Phil Ault, Navy veteran.

Meanwhile, at New Castle’s Thaddeus Stevens Primary Center, students spoke with soldiers at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan via a Skype hook-up.

Local veterans, including members of the Army Reserves, also were on hand to hear the students sing patriotic songs and watch them wave the flags while wearing special, patriotic T-shirts.

(Reporters David Burcham and Lugene Hudson contributed to this report.)


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