Audubon Elementary School held its 12th-annual Veterans Day school assembly on Nov. 12. The assembly featured an hour-long presentation, during which students, staff, as well as Methacton School District and community leaders, participated in a pageantry of patriotic songs and recitals for the benefit of the military veterans gathered at the event.
“The program is absolutely incredible,” Joyce Petrauskas, Methacton School Board president, said. “Its reputation precedes it, and it lives up to its reputation.”
Petrauskas, who attended the assembly for the first time this year, said she was highly impressed with the obvious hard work and preparation that went into the presentation.
The school’s gymnasium was packed with parents and family members. Among the honored guests, who began the assembly by processing into the gymnasium, included the school’s own honor guard, Boys and Girls Scouts, State Senator John Rafferty (R-44), Methacton School District superintendent Dr. Timothy Quinn, the school’s principal Tara Ricci.
The procession also featured approximately 40 local veterans from all military branches, who were given a special section on the gymnasium's stage.
According to Ricci, local veterans are invited to the program each year, and many of the veterans typically have family members that attend Audubon Elementary.
“Audubon is definitely a school rooted in tradition,” Ricci said. “We are very close to the community, and we are very interested in making sure that everyone in our community knows that they are apart of our lives, and we are grateful for their service.”
Ricci added that this is the biggest production that the school puts on each year.
Also on the stage were the school’s fourth-grade class, who performed over seven songs with titles such as
- “We Celebrate America”
- “United We Stand”
- “We Will not Forget”
- “Thankful for the USA”
Among the songs performed were those that represented each of the military branches. The first through fourth grade students took turns singing each military branch’s anthem, while veterans of the respective military branches were asked to stand and be recognized.
In addition, various readings took place, including “I am the Flag” as read by superintendent Quinn. Students from each grade also shared their thoughts on why they are thankful to veterans.
"I am grateful to the U.S.A., because everyone has freedom and loyalty and trust," said one Audubon student.
State senator Rafferty provided further remarks, during which he tested the elementary students on identifying certain sports celebrities, versus the names of notable veterans. He then explained who they should consider, “the real heroes.”
“They’re names of military men and women who served our country,” Rafferty said. “They’re the real heroes … It’s the men and women, your fathers, your grandfathers, your aunts, your uncles who wear, or have worn, the uniform of the United Sates Military.”
Major Preparation and Candles for Peace
Hosting the event was the school’s vocal music teacher and chorus director Louise Gerdelmann. She said that students work hard on the presentation each year, with preparations starting in late September.
“We have very talented students,” Gerdelmann said.
Gerdelmann said that it is important to teach the students the patriotic songs, as they go through the years at Audubon Elementary. She said by the end of their time at the elementary school, the students would have learned, not only the songs, but the importance of honoring the nation’s heritage and those who serve to protect it.
Gerdelmann is credited for coming up with the candle-lighting ceremony of the presentation. The ceremony involves all the school’s faculty to light each other’s candle, until candlelight fills the perimeter of the gymnasium. The lighting is followed by the students’ singing “A Candle for Peace.”
Gerdelmann explained that while the ceremony has patriotic roots, this particularly moving scene has evolved into a unified hope for world peace.
“That has evolved for peace,” Gerdelmann said. “A candle for peace.”
New this year, the Audubon Elementary School faculty, staff and students collected home-comfort items, which became care packages to go to troops in Afghanistan.
Christina Rojas, the school’s speech therapist, suggested the idea as part of the Veteran’s Day program. According to Rojas, two of her friends, currently serving in Afghanistan had sent her a list of comfort-item requests, which included cough drops, socks and instant coffee. [See media gallery for full list of collected items].
The school also raised funds to help with the costs of shipping the care-packages overseas.
In addition, veterans that attended the assembly were invited to send along notes in large heart-shaped, American Flag cards. Students had also made their own cards with personal messages of gratitude.
Veterans that participated in the event were also treated to breakfast, prior to the assembly, in the school’s library.
Feels Good to be a Veteran
Jerry and his wife Angela Carter, both Army veterans, have attended the assembly for the last five years.
They have a son, Anthony, who attends the school, and said how proud they were to see him participating in the program.
“I think it’s awesome,” Angela Carter, said.
Jerry Carter, who taught in Philadelphia School District, noted that such a Veterans Day program is unique, and deeply appreciates the effort Audubon Elementary School puts into it each year.
“It made me feel good to be a veteran,” Jerry Carter said, adding that he and his wife will certainly return to see next year’s Veterans Day assembly.