In recognition of Veterans Day tomorrow, the Schechter Westchester High School conducted a ceremony in order to raise awareness for issues facing veterans today. The program was coordinated by the Public Speech and Advocacy class—the English section of a new interdisciplinary senior course co-taught by English teacher Maria Rudolph and history teacher Michael Newman.
“The importance [of this program] was to bring a sense of awareness, to know why we have the day off, to really understand the complexity of veterans in America,” Rudolph said. “Since we are a very progressive school, students here know a lot about the issues in the world, and since we are raising so many wonderful leaders of tomorrow, it is important for us to know some of the issues that we have facing us.”
After seeing an advertisement about GreenLight a Vet, a campaign with the goal of establishing visible national support for veterans by changing one light to green, Rudolph was inspired: “We came across this idea of GreenLight a Vet,” Rudolph said. “So we started discussing it from there and thought, ‘Hey, can we actually do something? Since we are an advocacy course, why not try?’”
The Public Speech and Advocacy class then initiated a campaign to raise awareness about the troubles veterans face as they transition back into society. Reintegration often is halted by the challenges of PTSD, homelessness, and poverty. The students in the class aimed to use what they had learned in class to impart their message by displaying infographics and utilizing media campaigning strategies to spread their messages.
“We are working in class so much on social justice and advocacy,” student Tovia Marinstein said. “It’s so cool to actually see us implement something and run a program and raise awareness within our own community and within our school.”
Prior to the day’s program, the Public Speech and Advocacy class decorated the school in green to support the organization’s movement. In addition, students and faculty were asked to dress in red, white and blue. The school-wide assembly was held during sixth period and featured moving videos of soldiers returning from home and a video profiling a homeless veteran. It also featured various readings written by veterans and stories about SW relatives who have served in some capacity.
“I thought it was really nice how they incorporated members of our community and their family members,” said senior David Sasha, whose grandfather was honored during the ceremony for his service in the Pacific during WWII. “On Yom Hashoah, we always have people submit names of their family members who were murdered in the Holocaust, and this should be no different.”
Senior Jenna Lefkowitz said she appreciates the increased focus on American veterans: “It’s really important because our school focuses a lot on Yom Hazikaron and the Israeli soldiers. I think in the U.S. itself a lot of people forget about veterans, so I think it’s really important for us to appreciate what they have done for us and honor them.”
Following the assembly, students were asked to write thank-you cards to veterans on their way to their next period classes. “It showed that we care a lot about the veterans,” freshman Maddie Glass said. “We don’t think about it a lot, but it’s important because we are not only showing that we care, but we are telling them we care about them by sending them these thank-you notes.”
There are no classes tomorrow, Wednesday, November 11, to commemorate the national Veterans Day date; parent-teacher-student conferences will be held throughout the day.