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Partnering to Honor America’s Heroes (Video)

Southington schools presented a $4,000 check to help with the fundraising for the construction of a Connecticut Fisher House – and that’s just the start of a long-range plan to honor veterans.

When local veterans came before the in December to voice their concerns regarding education and support of veterans in the community. Their message was heard loud and clear.

Southington schools on Monday unveiled a long-range plan in partnership with veterans, enhancing education at every level from kindergarten to grade 12 and providing financial support for veterans issues, including $4,000 raised in just one week to help provide funding for the construction of a Connecticut Fisher House for wounded soldiers.

“I have to say, I’ve never been as happy as I am right now to be a veteran,” said Leonard Marcheselle on Monday.

School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. presented a check to kick-off the new partnership, giving the money to member Rachel Wache and presenting a detailed plan to enhance education and awareness in Southington schools.

Erardi said the latest movement is part of a proactive effort to make sure that the accomplishments and sacrifices of American veteran’s are not only remembered, but also supported in a manner that will encourage civic responsibility in all of Southington’s students, no matter how old they are.

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Southington schools first began partnering with local veterans after when discussions first began surrounding the concept of going to school on Veterans Day to consolidate the school year. Veterans including Marcheselle and Wayne White said to do so would be disrespectful to veterans and complained that not enough was being done to explain the holiday and why it was so important.

The comments led the Board of Education and Erardi to enter discussions with local veterans on not only the best way to address their concerns, but how to enhance education surrounding military service and more broadly, the importance of civic responsibility.

“We stand with our local veterans and look to provide a model school partnership that could be replicated throughout this great country,” Erardi said.

“I want students to better understand the freedoms we have every day. There is no better way to do this than to stand with those who were willing to sacrifice their life for the democracy of this great country.”

Almost instantly, teachers and administrators at each of Southington’s 12 public schools have supported the initiative. Led by Joyce McAloon, a teacher at , students bought wristbands donated by the Creed Law Firm.

In just five days – the wristbands were sold May 14-18 – the district sold 2,000 wristbands at $2 each to raise a total of $4,000 for the Connecticut Fisher House.

“The students had a great time learning about the Fisher House and veterans. The kids were excited to get involved,” McAloon said. “We celebrated Armed Forces Day on Friday and to look out at the sea of bracelets, it was just an amazing sight.”

The Fisher House, which is to be built in West Haven with groundbreaking estimated to begin in 2013, is a support home designed to provide care for wounded veterans and help those who are coming back from war assimilate back into society, Wache said.

Connecticut is one of the last states in the northeast without a Fisher House, which also provides food and sleeping arrangements to help families see their loved ones, she said.

“This is a great step toward helping us provide the support these veterans deserve,” Wache said. “The state needs to raise $3 million and this will go towards allowing us to reach that goal.”

The efforts don’t end there, however.

Erardi said Monday that the schools already have plans in place that will include a Veterans Speakers Bureau with local veterans available to talk with all classes in the Southington School district.

The schools will also host an all-school celebration in partnership with the Veterans on Nov. 12, an ongoing effort to help support the funding of the Connecticut Fisher House, an American flag replacement program district-wide, a monthly veteran visit program at all schools, a celebration of veterans through music and a “living history” veterans multimedia program.

Each of these efforts will take place during the 2012-13 school year, Erardi said.

“When it comes to veterans, we are sending a message that we are not only going to stand behind them, but encourage strong citizenship,” he said. “We hope that on Nov. 11, we will see all of our students out at the to honor their service and celebrate Veterans Day.”

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