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Jan 10, 2012 4:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport South Manor Students Want To Recognize Soldiers With 'Wall of Honor'

Jan 11, 2012 1:07 PM

Seven students now attending the Eastport South Manor Junior-Senior High School are joining forces with three former students to honor graduates of their district who are currently serving, or have served, in the military.

Together, the 10 students and former students have been working closely with faculty members and administrators to construct a “Wall of Honor” inside the Manorville school that, when completed, will display the names, ranks and branches of the military that ESM graduates have either served or are now serving in.

The students, who are receiving guidance from high school Principal Joseph Steimel, English teacher and Junior National Honor Society advisor Barbara McCoy, guidance secretary Dee Anderson, Assistant Principal James McClintock and math teacher Patty Cruz, have been working on the project for the past year. They are now ready to begin their fundraising efforts, a task that will require them to raise an estimated $60,000. In spite of that daunting task, students hope to have the wall installed as soon as possible.

The idea for the project was planted a year ago, when two Junior National Honor Society students—Tori Caretta and Chelsea Anderson, both 16 and high school juniors—approached Mr. Steimel about the possibility of installing such a wall in the building. At the time, Mr. Steimel and Ms. Cruz had been discussing ways to honor their former students who went on to pursue careers in the military. Ms. Cruz’s 22-year-old son, Marc, is a former Shark and currently a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

As for Tori and Chelsea, their inspiration for the Wall of Honor came out of a desire to honor Chelsea’s older brother Michael, 22, a member of the Army who is now serving in Afghanistan.

“Her brother is in the military, so it is close to us,” said Tori, another high school junior, in a recent interview. “Because we know someone in there, we just wanted a way to honor everybody.”

After their initial meeting, Mr. Steimel began recruiting other students throughout the school, including junior and high school students, to help with the project. Now, Chelsea and Tori have been joined by seniors Tyler Aki and Samantha Maddaloni, both 17, junior Nicole Kane, 16, sophomore Vanessa Amendola, 15, and freshman Bryan Burrowes, 14. Former students Melissa Danowski, Kevin Spellman and Kim Kaufman all helped with the early phases of development for the project.

In December, the group took its first significant step toward making the Wall of Honor a reality when Mr. Steimel presented a mock-up of the proposed display to Superintendent of Schools Mark Nocero and members of the district’s Board of Education. The proposed wall, which will measure 10 feet by 20 feet and be located outside the school library, will boast a large electronic American flag that will give the illusion that it is waving. The engraved names of all ESM graduates who went on to pursue careers in the military will be featured.

The display will also have a television that will display messages and offer updates about the former students, including promotions, where they are currently serving and any distinctions that they may earn. The school is also considering integrating the project into the school curriculum, primarily through multimedia projects or assignments.

“We can honor them,” Vanessa said. “I feel we can really give back and make this something to be proud of.”

At least 50 former students of the junior-senior high school, which opened its doors in 2003, have served or are currently serving in the military, according to Ms. Anderson, who later added that she believes that figure will increase as the students complete their research. She acknowledges that that part of the project could prove to be difficult, adding that she and others are encouraging anyone with information about former students to contact the school.

Equally challenging will be raising tens of thousands of dollars for the wall. According to Mr. Steimel, the plan is to involve the entire school by reaching out to individual clubs to join the effort. Students also plan to seek help from the community and are preparing a letter that seeks cash donations.

“We are going to reach out to constituent groups as much as possible,” Mr. Steimel said. “But I think it is important to show the community that the students want this as well.”

Additionally, the school is planning a patriotic concert this spring and all proceeds will help fund the construction of the Wall of Honor.

While many of the students involved with the project have relatives who have either served or are currently serving, they said their main objective is to recognize and honor those soldiers they do not know but who, every day, are putting their lives on the line to protect them.

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