WOODSTOCK – Woodstock School District 200 students heard a message of perseverance and freedom of choice Thursday at Northwood Middle School’s 17th annual Veterans Day assembly.
Students gathered in the gym along with local officials and veterans for the program. “America’s Gift to my Generation” was the theme, and the program focused on everyday heroism. Students have been raising funds for the nonprofit Vets Roll, which takes veterans to Washington, D.C., to view national monuments each summer.
“Students and staff have covered the topic in classrooms over the past several weeks,” Northwood Middle School Principal Jeremy Schaaf said. “Through our curricular activities here at Northwood, we look to enlighten our students in many different ways. Part of that is understanding our history and what freedom means to us.”
Schaaf said it also was important for students to learn about the sacrifices and stories that surround heroism.
“Part of that is also trying to understand what a hero is,” he said. “From what our Founding Fathers did before us, to our civil rights leaders and also to many of the people we walk side by side with in our communities – our veterans.”
Students gave presentations, sang and played patriotic music during the program. The assembly also featured teacher presentations and keynote speaker Mark Finnegan of Vets Roll.
Robert Rivera, who has worked as a social studies teacher at Northwood for the past 19 years, spoke about what he learned during his time as a corporal in the Marine Corps.
“Freedom is not an easy choice,” he said. “It means that we are the people that decided what we want to do, where we want to go and how to live the life that we want.”
Rivera encouraged students to reach beyond their comfort zones and be ready for when a door opens.
“It is OK to be scared. It is OK to stretch yourself and reach a little bit further,” Rivera said. “The most important thing I learned about my life in the Marine Corps was to never give up. Every part of my life has been affected by just deciding not to give up.”