Comsewogue staff, students and parents worked extra hard this year to not only make things the best it could be for their current students, but also for those graduates now in the military.
“Since early December, we have been looking for partners in the community who could help us financially with some of our costs to send care packages around the world,” said teacher Andrew Harris. “It is a very hard time of year for local businesses, so we decided to ask our local Elks organization.”
Harris said that after a few weeks, the Elks organization told them they would contribute $500 buy gift certificates for those serving.
“I was blown away because they too have had it difficult, but when I went to the lodge, I learned that these are very special people who were truly concerned about our local community and truly helping,” Harris added. “I have appealed to many large corporations only to be turned down. The Elks were delighted to be asked and give to us. They tend to do things one dollar at a time with each member donating their own hard-earned money.”
When Harris received the contribution, he went to the local Target where the store matched his initial $500.
One of the most powerful items in the care packages are always the handwritten notes that the students send. At John F. Kennedy Middle School, teachers Dave Anzini, Katy Dornicik and Melissa McMullen decided to make great lessons out of creating the letters.
“The essence of a strong writing program is one that engages students in authentic, meaningful experiences that not only build their skills as writers but invites them to wield their writing as a powerful tool for the greater good of society,” McMullen said. “They were powerful, indeed, as one of the moms whose son was to receive a package said, ‘I was just looking into the bag you dropped off for Ryan. After reading the wonderful letters I started to cry. Please thank your students and let them know how proud and thankful I am as Ryan’s mom for their kindest and the awesome letters they wrote and pictures. I know Ryan will love them and will enjoy them. They will be put in his memory box to share with his friends and family always.’”
Some of the students wrote inspiring messages asking lots of questions about what life was like on an aircraft carrier for example. Six grader Sophia Nielsen said, “I’m very grateful to the soldiers. They’re such amazing people. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. They save so many people’s lives and risk their own life for us. I wish them the very best. Stay safe and healthy. You deserve the best. Thanks for your dedication and support!”
When one military member and graduate LCpl Paul Piotrowsk received his care package and letters. He was delighted, and texted from an undisclosed location overseas to his former teacher Ms. Droge (Dornicik), and her students, that it meant a lot for him to receive his gifts and letters from them and how much he appreciated it. He is currently a Marine working hard as a crew chief and operator of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle.
Even former students were inspired to get involved. Arianna Morturano, a 2019 graduate, decided to help out by selling holiday items to help fundraise.
“After growing up in this very amazing community, I wish to give back to those who serve and protect. My former classmates are selfless, brave and the true embodiment of what it means to be a warrior. They deserve to be honored for their service,” she said.
Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said giving back to those serving is a great experience for the students.
“It is such a great lesson for students to see how empowered they feel when they can do something for others,” she said.
“These actions made such a big difference for those military graduates that they have a direct connection to. I am proud to be part of such an outstanding team!”
Courtesy of Comsewogue School District and Andrew Harris