Saxe Middle School hosts annual Veterans Appreciation Day
NEW CANAAN — For the 11th year, Saxe Middle School connected students to veterans who served the country in Desert Storm, Vietnam and more.
On Monday, students participated in the annual Veterans Appreciation Day, which included a full day of activities for students to meet local veterans. Jenny Baltz, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Saxe, talked about the importance of the day.
“You’re getting to see history from somebody who actually lived through it,” she said. “They’re talking about stuff you wouldn’t just read about in a book.”
Throughout the day, veterans were greeted by students as they arrived, and some even joined students in class. Students performed music in the entrance of the school to welcome visitors, while some veterans were given the opportunity to speak to students about their service.
Librarian Mona Biondi helped start the annual event at Saxe. In the first year, Biondi worked with parents who were veterans; she would later start working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in New Canaan to bring more veterans to the school.
“We started out small and tried to find a way to get the community involved,” Biondi said.
Baltz started helping three years ago, focusing more on the student component of the event.
“We get student leaders to help participate throughout the day,” she said.
Every veteran that comes into the school is greeted by a student who acts as their chaperone. The student stays with the veteran throughout the day, introduces them if they are speaking, and sees them out at the end of the day. During lunch, students also write thank you letters to the West Haven Veterans Hospital.
Part of Baltz’s job includes finding students who are interested in social studies and are comfortable leading as chaperones.
Over the years, hosting the annual event has become more efficient, she said. Many of the connections made have led to the return of veterans over the years.
“When I look at the veterans we have this year, it’s a lot of familiar names,” she said.
As word of the event and its success has spread, Saxe students have started involving their family members.
“We have students who reach out to us and they say, ‘My grandpa served in Vietnam, ge would love to come in,’ ” Baltz said. “The kids are proud about it too.”
The inspiration for the program came from Branford High School, which has run a similar program for over 20 years. Bringing the program to the middle school allowed students to make real connections with service members, Biondi said.
“To be able to have 1,300 kids hear a veteran first-hand, that’s really our goal,” she said