Veterans assembly teaches Kiski Area students how to be proud Americans
Retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Dawn Serakowski thought her daughter was in class.
Instead, Kamdyn Serakowski, a senior at Kiski Area High School, surprised her mother Tuesday when she took the podium at Kiski Area Upper Elementary School to deliver the keynote speech for the school’s 16th annual Veterans Day luncheon and assembly.
“When I think of the word ‘veteran,’ I don’t think of character or traits. I think of a person,” Kamdyn Serakowski said, referring to her mother who sat just 10 feet away. “It wasn’t just a job to (my mother). It was her duty.”
Serakowski, one of about 75 veterans in attendance, was brought to tears.
Kiski Area Upper Elementary recognized military veterans with slideshows, student-produced videos, musical and dance performances and speeches by faculty and students. The assembly at which Serakowski spoke followed a luncheon in the cafeteria, with all of the food donated by local organizations.
The event’s turnout of veterans was an all-time high.
During the program, a microphone was passed around so each veteran could name their branch of service and years they served. Many had children and grandchildren in the audience, and they thanked the young people for recognizing their service.
One veteran named all the birthdays he spent deployed on foreign soil. Another said she left her small children behind to be a nurse during Desert Storm.
Another was the district’s superintendent, Tim Scott.
Dan Smith, Upper Elementary’s assistant principal, said the annual event teaches students to respect veterans and understand the sacrifice of serving in the military.
The event was organized by Rebekah Stankowski, a Kiski Area Upper Elementary social studies teacher.
“We like to assume kids know how to act appropriately, but if we don’t teach them how to be a proud American, then they’re not going to understand the gravity of it all,” Stankowski said.
Stankowski enlists the help of current and former Upper Elementary students to put on the event. Kamdyn Serakowski and several other older students returned to help.
“I just think it’s cool to come help out people who have helped us a lot,” said Blake Fritz, an eighth-grader at Kiski Area Intermediate School.
Near the end of the assembly, two World War II veterans — Robert McDermott and Emilio Saldari — were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Then, the 650 students in the gym lined up and high-fived the procession of veterans as they made their exit.
Stankowski expects the event to grow and attract more veterans each year.
“It strikes a nerve with people, and they want to make sure kids know about love of country,” she said.
Teghan Simonton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Teghan at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter .