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Frederiksen Elementary School Presents a Moving Veterans Day Assembly

November 12, 2011

Frederiksen Elementary School Veterans Day Event

Veterans Day was celebrated across the Tri-Valley and throughout the entire country on Friday.  President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day in 1919 which marked the end of World War I.  The day was meant to recognize the service of all military veterans.  At Frederiksen Elementary School, this holiday has taken on a very special meaning and its influence is partially due to an influence north of our border – Canada.  Since 2006, Frederiksen Elementary has promoted the lessons of Veterans Day outside of the classroom.  The students, staff, community and military personnel have had the direct opportunity to interact with one another on this special day.  With each succeeding year, the event has become one of the most powerful learning moments for these students and has now become a legacy event.  This year, 60 veterans and active service members were in attendance.

To understand how this all came to be, had the opportunity to sit down with the two motivating individuals that make this annual event so special.  Catherine Brown is a 1st Grade Teacher at Frederiksen.  As a native of Canada, Catherine was very accustomed to the annual recognition of Remembrance Day, which is the equivalent of Veterans Day in the United States.  Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday in Canada and is celebrated on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour – like in the United States.  However, in Canada, a moment of silence is observed – regardless if you are at the office, at a mall or in school.  Ms. Brown was mildly surprised that a similar effort was not occurring at her school site and it inspired her to promote a more formalized ceremony for her school site.

Jamie Perez and Catherine Brown  What was your inspiration for taking the Veterans Day ceremony a step further and how did you go about organizing the event?

Catherine Brown:  “The experience in Canada is a very profound one.  I felt that it was a wonderful teaching moment for the students and to further personalize the experience.  I looked to my immediate sphere of influence and made calls to the Pleasanton Veterans of Foreign Wars and to Camp Parks.  I already had contacts at VFW Post 6298 through my position as a Girl Scout Leader.  Further, we had many students attending Frederiksen that resided at Camp Parks.  I made phone calls and we quickly had many willing participants.”  Now that you’ve helped organize this event for the sixth year, what does it mean to you?

Brown:  “It means so much and I am always so proud of this event.  Primarily, it is our gift to the veterans and our active service-people.  Equally important, it sends a powerful message to the students.  At this stage, they get it.  And they expect it.  At times, it is a challenge to keep the kids focused and on their best behavior during assemblies.  I’m happy to say that in this instance, they respect it and they understand the importance of this gathering.”

The assembly included an inspirational talk by CSM Patrick McKie, Camp Parks on the meaning of Veterans Day and an explanation by Dave Ham from VFW Post 6298 on the ceremonial meaning of the red poppies that are worn by veterans to commemorate one of the bloodiest battles in Belgium and northwest France during WWI.

One of the most dynamic moments of the assembly was the performance of Amazing Grace by Donna Willy on Bagpipe.  Speaking of music, we must recognize the contributions of Ms. Jamie Perez, Fine Arts Instructor at Frederiksen and at multiple sites throughout the district.  You have been an active partner with Ms. Brown on these productions since the beginning.  Describe your involvement.

Jamie Perez:  “When she hatched the idea six years ago, she knew that she couldn’t do it herself.  Catherine had a vision and it included many elements – including music and performance.  We worked together and developed a way for all of our students to participate.”  This year’s assembly included four musical numbers – each with choreography.  How were you able to effectively manage this within the student’s schedules?

Perez:  “Well, we sort of work backwards to the event on the calendar.  Though we had four to five weeks, I only get the students for about an hour each week.  Fortunately, at times, we were able to work across grade levels and we really nailed it down.”  Once the assembly had concluded – how did you feel about the student’s performance and what they are receiving from this?

Perez:  “I’m just so touched by the intensity and feeling that was experienced.  I know that the students all took it very seriously.  After spending time in the classroom discussing the sacrifices that veterans have made for our country, they largely regarded it as our small gift to them.  For me, I was simply very proud and very humble to be in the presence of these heroes.”

  1. Frances Cholakis permalink
    November 13, 2011 10:03 am

    This is a wonderful story. It is very important to recognize and thank educators like Jamie Perez and Catherine Brown who so generously go “above and beyond’ their classroom curriculum to teach children values such as service, community, appreciation, and empathy.


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