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Quaker Valley students reach out to troops overseas

Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Through a school-wide collection drive, Quaker Valley Middle School student council leaders are hoping to offer some comfort to soldiers serving overseas.

Middle schoolers collected more than 1,400 items and sent them to Quaker Valley graduate and soldier Chris Vish, who is stationed in Afghanistan, student council adviser R.J. Long said.

The items — such as snack foods, granola bars, toothpaste, DVDs, magazines — were sent earlier this month and should arrive after Christmas, he said.

“All of this stuff is going directly to him,” Long said. “So he can play Santa Claus.”

Students met Vish via a live teleconference before Thanksgiving, which gave the project a deeper meaning, he said.

“It's opened their eyes a bit — particularly talking with him,” he said. “They asked a lot of really great questions.

“We're trying to be a little more intentional about timing the projects with teachable moments.”

The project began with a Veterans Day assembly last month.

“It was book-ended between a very personal Veterans Day experience and it ends with an active duty serviceman,” Long said. “It gave the kids a better context of being able to understand. We haven't done that before. It's always been, ‘Hey, it's our monthly service project.' It's not just something that they're doing; there's good reason for it.”

Service committee chair Abby Smith said she enjoyed working on the project.

“It is a really good thing to do,” the eighth-grade student said. “I find it to be a really important thing. It's why I joined the service committee. It makes people feel really good.”

Eighth-grader and student council President John Pugh said he was pleased with the project's outcome.

“At the beginning of the project, it was off to a slow start,” he said. “We'd walk around and the home room boxes … were less than we would want them to be. We wanted this to be a little better. (Abby) bumped up the advertising and then right at the end we got all of this stuff.”

Long said the chance to incorporate education into service projects is important.

“Our sixth-graders weren't even alive during 9/11,” he said. “When I taught 9/11 this year, this was the first year where the kids have no real-life knowledge of it. So now we're teaching it as historical events. So we need to treat it as such.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or

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