DYKER HEIGHTS — For the fifth year in a row, William McKinley students gathered in their auditorium on Friday, Nov. 8 to receive heartfelt messages from local veterans, and to recognize and celebrate all that veterans have done for this country.
Jessica Amato, English Language Arts teacher and event coordinator, is responsible for community outreach for McKinley. Amato spearheaded the Veterans Day ceremony, which included a performance by students from all four of her classes.
Attending the presentation were members of the school community including students from various grades, their families, PTA members, local veterans, civic leaders, members of Community Board 10, UFT District Representative Ellen Driesen and Assemblymember Peter Abbate.
This year’s theme was a salute to the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day. Amato had her students write essays entitled, “One hundred words for 100 years.” Demonstrating democracy in action, Amato also had students vote on the best essays, and of her approximately 120 students, four of her students were “elected” to read their 100-word essay on stage at the ceremony.
Winners and readers of the essay contest were Qiuyu Ye (Leo), Ashley Yhen, Yaolin Tan and Ava Wong.
Amato also invited students, faculty and staff to bring in photos of relatives who served in the U.S. military, and her students created a video, presenting photos of “McKinley family” veterans on a projected screen, as one of her students, seventh grader Mia Baez, sang an a cappella version of “When the War is Over,” by the Lancer Band, under the direction of music teacher Alla Khromchenko.
Administrative Assistant Principal Anthony DeBenedetto welcomed guests and thanked the community for gathering for this important event. He especially thanked Amato for her consistent programming and planning of the event for each of the past five years. He also noted that his own father was a veteran.
“Students recognize the importance of veterans and their role in helping all of us to live free lives,” explained Amato.
“I feel honored to give a speech here and honored to be at the assembly,” said Tan, a seventh grader.
“I feel a little nervous but it feels great to be here,” said Ye, and Wong echoed Ye’s sentiments.
“I feel very fortunate to be here and to be able to speak in front of all these veterans,” said Wong.
Yhen summed it up nicely when she said, “I feel really grateful and excited to be here to give a speech.
“I feel very honored that the veterans came to our school and took time out of their day to come here and speak with us. It was truly an honor,” she added.