Students To Pay Tribute To Veterans With Field Of Honor

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Students at Mineola High School are coming together to bring awareness to our veterans with a fundraising project that is set to happen at Mineola High School in the coming month.

“I have always had a special interest in the challenges veterans face once they return home and the scary statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide a day has stuck with me since the day I heard it,” Mineola High School teacher Francine Sclafani said. “I saw a movie American Sniper a few years ago that also brought attention to the various stressors veterans face and especially the hardships spouses, parents and children face when their family members are in the military.”

Sclafani started teaching U.S. History a few years ago and thought her position as a teacher would be a great opportunity to bring awareness to the issues that veterans face to her students.

“I also believe it is very important and crucial for the younger generations to learn about the sacrifices and contributions veterans have made to this country for 300 years and continue to do so,” she said. “Without our veterans we don’t have a country.”

Last year, her three classes of 11th graders conducted various fundraisers and completed several projects to bring awareness within the school community. The students partnered with local resident and veteran Bill Urianek to help him with his incredible bottle collection fundraiser.

“My students set up recycling cans throughout the building and collected plastic bottles, which were then sorted and delivered to Mr. Urianek’s house,” Sclafani explained. “He then recycles the bottles and donated all the 5 cent deposits to various charities and local vets.  My students met with Mr. Urianek and he presented his military experience to them. In January, we had another guest speaker, Bernie Rader—a Long Island WWII veteran who was also a [Prisoner of War] POW in France. He spoke to the students about his experience and being taken captive in France by the Nazis. The students also completed various projects about the different organizations that help vets today. This year, my students will begin working on a virtual Veterans Memorial Museum in a few weeks where they will research items left behind by vets like dog tags, letters and POW bracelets and then tell their story through these objects. We are very excited about this new project.”

So how are students reaching out to the community to get donations?

“Students have promoted this fundraiser through social media, telling their family and friends and using the Mineola district’s phone and email service, which sends a phone call and email to every district household about the event,” Sclafani said.

Proceeds from the school’s fundraiser will go to American Vet Dogs in Smithtown, which specializes placing highly-skilled service and guide dogs to individuals with physical injuries, PTSD, hearing and vision loss and seizures.

“The 11th graders last year wanted to culminate all their work with a final project for the community to see and honor veterans on Long Island,” Sclafani explained. “We decided on a Flag Field of Honor since we do not have one in Mineola. The students wanted to sell flags to be purchased by family and friends of vets and then have them displayed at the high school. All the proceeds will go to a charity of their choosing. The students researched various charities and then voted on one—and they choose American Vet Dogs, which is also the charity Mr. Urianek works with as well.”

Residents can purchase a flag for $20, which will be displayed at the high school’s first annual Flag Field of Honor, at the entrance of the high school. The Field of Honor will be up from Veterans Day until Thanksgiving. All sponsors will get the flag when the school takes them down. Flag orders are being accepted now until Oct. 14.

For more information on how to buy a flag, contact Sclafani at 516-237-2678 or email fsclafani@mineola.k12.ny.us.

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