The Brandywine Heights Area School District presented a virtual Veterans Day Program and served a drive-thru meal to veterans on Nov. 11.

“The veterans I have spoken to about the program definitely expressed their appreciation for our efforts to repeat our Veterans Day Program to the greatest extent that we were able to under these extenuating circumstances,” said Veterans Day Program coordinator Tess Woloszanski, a Brandywine Heights teacher.

Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and the school district changing to a fully virtual platform, the previously scheduled in-person activities were canceled. Instead, the virtual program was shared online, on social media and in classes.

“Although, we cannot have our veterans in person, we are still able to share musical selections, student created projects, and artwork, as well as a recorded message from State Senator Judy Schwank,” said Brandywine Heights Intermediate and Middle School Principal Robert C. Farina. “Our goal was to create as close of a rendition of our in-person ceremony as feasible.”

Veterans were also served a drive-up meal from Mission BBQ.

“This year, we are excited to partner with Mission BBQ to provide a boxed lunch for local veterans,” said Farina. “In year’s past, we would hold a luncheon in our cafeteria for our veterans and their families. Recognizing that this is not possible this year, we are excited to partner with Mission BBQ to have a meal that is delicious and easy to be shared with our veterans.”

Brandywine has hosted a Veterans Day Program for 21 years.

“Every year, our students hear the experiences of our veterans and recognize them with an assembly and a meal in our cafeteria. The experiences of our veterans provide strong examples of service, dedication, and sacrifice for our students,” said Farina. “In dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, our students are faced with many challenges, so we strongly believed these messages from our veterans are incredibly important to be heard amidst the pandemic.”

“It is also an important opportunity for our larger community to see recognition for our veterans and the work that our students and staff have put forward,” he added.

Farina said Woloszanski as program coordinator dedicates great amounts of her time to recognize local veterans every year.

“She is personally familiar with the sacrifices of our service members in their defense of our nation,” he said, noting that her husband served in the U.S. Marines.

In addition to Woloszanski, the faculty members on the virtual program committee were Nikki Konyak, Technology; Nancy Chmielewski, Chorus; Steph Rinda, Band; Kate Defibaugh, 8th Grade Rep; Janet Huston, 7th Grade Rep; and Tonya Levan, 6th Grade Rep.

While Woloszanski was in charge of putting together the virtual presentation, she credits Farina for wanting to continue with a Veterans Day celebration this year, despite all of the challenges that this year presented.

“The purpose of the program is always to recognize and show appreciation for our local veterans, as well as to make students more aware of the sacrifices that veterans have and will continue to make for our community and country,” said Woloszanski. “The virtual presentation is a way of honoring our veterans and community members who serve others.”

One message is to say, “Hey, despite COVID- 19, we’re still here to recognize the efforts of those who have and will serve others.”

The second message is to students.

“We hope to inspire them to serve their community and country and become good citizens. Our third message is that we hope that by watching the program, it will inspire the patriotism of all and help with uniting our community and country,” she said.

Woloszanski and Farina worked collaboratively with members of Brandywine’s teaching staff to alter the normal ceremony to be held in a virtual setting.

“The virtual presentation mirrors our normal assembly in many ways. We still have poems and musical elements. Students still created posters. We visually recognized local veterans of varying service branches, as well as naming recent BH graduates who joined one of the branches,” she said. “We also have an inspirational slideshow to share. Although Senator Schwank could not personally attend, as she usually does, she did share a beautiful virtual address for all veterans.”

“Virtually or not, we must honor veterans for their service to our country,” said Schwank in the recorded message. “We celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 to honor the end of WW1. Fighting ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and so it was decided that this would be the day we honor all veterans who have served in the United States military.”

“We must never forget their sacrifice. Our veterans dedicated their whole selves, body and spirit, to defending that which we hold most dear in this country, our freedoms,” Schwank continued. “… Americans value nothing more than our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… America is strong because of our belief in these ideals.”

Those who have served or are serving in the U.S. military represent the best and bravest this country has to offer, she said.

“We value the service and sacrifice of our veterans, not just today, but every day of the year. Thank you so much,” concluded Schwank.

The program included the Middle School Chorus singing “America the Beautiful” set to a local veterans photo slideshow, poetry readings by 8th graders John Allmendinger and Olivia Alderfer, the Select Chorus singing “Armed Forces: The Pride of America” set to a slideshow of recent Brandywine graduates who joined military service, and a music slideshow of patriotic pictures set to “Song of the Patriot” by Johnny Cash.

Slideshows also showcased student posters centered on the theme “Honoring All Who Served” and photos of students completing Service Challenges.

“Some things that are different this year, instead of the Essay contest, this year we challenged students to do some kind of service for their own community, and those are shown in the program,” said Woloszanski.

The program closed with 8th grader Greta Kline singing “Taps” followed by the playing of “Taps” by high school trumpeter Lukas Bojt.

The Patriot Award was not presented this year. Instead, veterans were asked to tell a story or two about something that happened to them or around them during their time of service.

“Some veterans usually come and speak to classes in person, but this year we had six veterans speak to middles school students virtually on Zoom or Google meet. That was done this morning, and although different, I would say very successful!” she said. “One of our veterans, Jeff Mills, shared that this is an important opportunity for our veterans to share their experiences and it is part of the healing process for many veterans.”

“Our veterans will always have a home in our school and we are incredibly fortunate to welcome them every year to share their experiences with our students and staff,” said Farina. “Globally, nationally, and locally many traditions have had to be changed due to the pandemic and we are fortunate to be able to continue our yearly Veterans Day traditions and proud to be able to thank, recognize and commemorate our veterans.”

To view the Veterans Day Program, visit https://tinyurl.com/2020BH-VeteransDay.

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