Students unveil memorial they created at McKinley

Students from William McKinley Intermediate School, I.S. 259, are making history in a big way, as a unique Armed Forces memorial was unveiled at the Dyker Heights school on Tuesday, May 21.

At the unveiling ceremony, a beaming Principal Janice Geary proclaimed, “To be a good student, a good person, means giving back to the community,” and give back the students did.

The memorial is more than 270 feet long, and contains poetry and artwork inspired by the heroic stories told to the students by service members, veterans and family members of the fallen.

To create the mural, McKinley collaborated with Hope For The Warriors, an organization that strives “to enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service members, their families, and families of the fallen who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty.”

“We heard the speakers’ stories, and tried to sketch out their stories,” said seventh grader Ridwana Ahmed.

“The stories made you feel really strongly, and made you understand the pain they went through. There were kids leaving the room in tears,” added seventh grader Avery Skillin.

The memorial was not only a way to honor our armed forces, but an eye-opening experience for many students.

“We would never have known,” said eighth grader Kelly Perez. “I learned more than I ever thought I could know.”

Spearheading the massive project was teacher Roma Karas, who insisted that all credit be attributed to the students, and with due reason. The students that worked on the memorial were often at school as early as 7 a.m. on Saturdays.

Alumna Shirley Lau, 19, even returned to McKinley every chance she got in order to continue contributing to the memorial. Lau is currently a student at Rochester Institute of Technology, studying Medical Illustration.

“It is very easy to take for granted the freedom we enjoy. I was honored and humbled to be part of this project.” Lau said.

Parents, members of the armed forces, students and teachers all glowed at the gorgeous murals that adorned the second and third floors of the school. The mural featured countless representations of stories that were each painstakingly thought out, and painted to perfection. The tribute also contains over 6,000 names of the fallen, all

Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia came from Washington, D.C. to present the contributors with a shadowbox containing an American flag he had personally flown over military headquarters in Afghanistan.

World War II Veteran Al Mahr, 89, said, “ I think this is a wonderful thing they’re doing. It is truly a work of art, and I am amazed.”

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