Grade 8 Students Preserve Stories of U.S. Veterans for History Project

The stories of more than 60 United States veterans were preserved and honored by St. Margaret’s grade 8 students in a history unit that culminated last week with a celebration and presentation of gifts in the Chapel courtyard.

The students identified and contacted a veteran earlier this spring and interviewed them about their experiences in the military, with some service dating as far back was World War II. The students then transcribed the interview and presented it to their veteran in addition to giving personalized gifts that had meaning in the veteran’s life.

The history unit built interviewing, research and documentation skills. It also allowed the students to learn about U.S. history in a more personal way.

Before presenting the transcripts and gifts, the grade 8 students met in the Chapel and listened to two veterans—Upper School history teacher and Marine Corps veteran Rocky Parker and Colonel Matt Jones—speak of their service.

The guest speakers were preceded by remarks from three grade 8 students—Celeste Windes, Sophia Karahalios and Maddie Bendzick—who gave thanks to the veterans who shared their past, and told of the lessons they learned from the project.

“Whether or not they know it, each and every veteran in this room has inspired and impacted their family as well as everyone who hears their story,” Sophia said. “And your stories matter. The sacrifices you made shaped our world. You helped create a world where we have the opportunity to live and become whatever we choose to be.”

“I hope you know that your story will live in our hearts and minds forever, teaching us valuable lessons that we could never forget,” Maddie said. “This past month was more than a project, it was a life-changing experience opening our hearts and minds to your hard and devoted work for our country. Like Sophia said, we hear about the soldiers and wars in textbooks in our classes but we never really experience their stories, and thanks to you, now we have.”

In addition to interviewing veterans, grade 8 students also researched one person whose name is on the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which memorializes more than 50,000 names of those killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War. During the annual grade 8 trip to Washington next week, students will find the name of the person they researched and leave something meaningful underneath it.

“Our service learning theme in grade 8 is ‘respecting the past as we influence the future,’” said Middle School assistant principal and history teacher Mike Allison, who teaches the unit with Rob Lakeman. “Without a doubt, that is at the spirit of both of these experiences.”
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An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California