Students in the Community High School Bridge 8.5 Program recently interviewed 13 members of VFW Post #6791 and the Ladies Auxiliary in West Chicago for the Veteran’s History Project sponsored by the Library of Congress. Veterans from World War II, Vietnam, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq conflicts participated in the project.
Robert Gufstafson, a CHS graduate and Vietnam veteran explained that, “They participated because they are vets and the kids are the next generation. Any opportunity to share experiences is a privilege.” Other members of Post #6791 that participated were Christine Seagrave, Donald Smith, Charles Schramer, Charles Scheckel, Patrick Leon, John Klingberg, George Tugana, Richard Guyser, John Johnston, Kenneth Beardsley, and Kenneth Richardt. Nancy Smith represented the Ladies Auxiliary.
“What I liked about my veteran was that he told me stories about how he jumped out of ariplanes,” declared Edgar Espinal of West Chicago. His classmate, John Fitzgerald of Winfield, also shared that he learned, “how different it was to fight a war 70 years ago.”
Jenny Gutierrez of West Chicago learned how technology has made contact with home much easier. “What I learned when Mr. Leon came was that some of the technology gets better as soldiers serve. Mr. Leon said that the last time he served, he was able to use Skype!”
Mary Ellen Daneels, the Social Studies teacher for the program explained, “Our school mission statement promotes learning, living and leadership. The Veterans History Project allowed students to learn about these attributes from members of their community that embody them the best, our veterans. What an opportunity to learn from those who lived history.”
Megan Fagalde, a senior at CHS, serves as a Peer Leader for the program. She facilitated two of the veteran interviews. “Interviewing the veterans was an interesting experience because you got to hear the stories first hand instead of in a classroom setting. Also, the difference between serving in World War II and Iraq/Afghanistan was cool to hear.”
Bridge 8.5 is a summer transition program for incoming freshman at the high school. Students in Bridge 8.5 can earn their first high school credits while learning about the new school culture and applying academic skills to real world issues. Students prepared for the interviews by visiting the First Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton and conducting an interdisciplinary study of the question, “Who paid the price for the rights and privileges I have in my community?”
VFW Post #6791 and the Ladies Auxiliary was just one of several community partners that supported the Bridge 8.5 Program. The West Chicago Jewel-Osco donated supplies for a Rocket Car Project. The CHS Booster Club donated prizes for student raffles. The McCormick Foundation sponsored a visit of the Freedom Express, an interactive First Amendment mobile museum. Students also assembled food packages during a visit to Feed My Starving Children in Aurora, Illinois.
Nick Kempski, who serves as an English teacher in the Bridge 8.5 program, learned a lot from the Veterans History Project, “Participating in the interviews of our local veterans has inspired me to contact family and friends who are veterans. I would like to honor and learn from them through this project. It is important that we always remember those who have paid the price for our freedom"
According to the Veteran’s History Project website, The Library of Congress, “collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.” For more information about the Veterans History Project, go to http://www.loc.gov/vet
- Mary Ellen Daneels
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