- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
CCSD students, staff, and community honor America’s heroes during Veterans Week 2022
“The hardest thing about serving in Vietnam was coming home.”
That heartbreaking statement from Army veteran Jim Arensen underscores the importance of Veterans Week in Cherry Creek Schools. Honoring those who served and sacrificed, no matter when or where, is the goal of the district’s annual, week-long celebration. Each November, every school in the district holds an activity or event to recognize and thank veterans, current military members, and their families for their commitment to our country.
“Veterans Week in Cherry Creek Schools is the perfect chance for our students to learn about service, sacrifice, and honor,” Superintendent Christopher Smith said. “We honor our heroes during this unique celebration in CCSD, and in the process, teach our kids fundamental lessons about life in and out of the classroom.”
Arensen was among the veterans and servicemembers who attended a breakfast in their honor at Prairie Middle School, which featured performances by the Prairie band, orchestra, and choir. Other schools held patriotic assemblies with student speakers, musical performances, and slide shows about local veterans and current members of the military. Meadow Point Elementary hosted the Academy Winds, an ensemble of professional musicians and current service members who are stationed at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Holly Ridge Primary and Holly Hills Elementary celebrated with American Legion LCW Post 1. The Hollys Principal Molly Drvenkar gave a short speech in which she encouraged all students to remember that honoring veterans also means honoring the legacy of America's unique freedoms.
"If we want to preserve our freedoms, we must put them into action," Drvenkar said. "For example, by voting in elections or speaking out against injustices. We must also ensure that everyone feels the benefits of freedom. We can do that by volunteering in our communities or teaching our children what it really means to be an American."
At many schools, veterans visited classrooms to talk with students about their experiences in the Armed Forces. Cimarron Elementary welcomed veterans and former student Matthew Katzenmeier, who is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force. He wants students at his former school to know that serving in the military can be an interesting and rewarding career.
“It’s a great way to start out your adult life,” said Katzenmeier, who is stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona, and has served a tour of duty in the United Arab Emirates. “It’s a great way to see cool things and meet new people. It’s a great experience.”
Some schools held indoor parades, where students lined the hallways and cheered as their honored guests walked by. Three pairs of elementary and middle schools joined forces to hold outdoor parades featuring flags, floats, first responders, and more. After the parade hosted by Aspen Crossing Elementary and Sky Vista Middle School, a ceremony was held to commemorate the Cherry Creek School District being named a Purple Heart School District – the only one in Colorado – for its commitment to honoring veterans and current servicemembers each year. CCSD was nominated for that honor by Chapter 375 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Aspen Crossing Elementary, Sky Vista Middle School, and the Eaglecrest High School Band were also recognized with a Special Recognition Award for their dedication and support in honoring America's wounded combat veterans.
CCSD parent and veteran Chris Elawar, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, attended the Prairie Middle School event with his son, Cayson, who is an eighth grader at Prairie. Elawar gave credit to the veterans who came before him.
“They fought in foreign lands, and many died on those hills for the freedoms that we have in this country,” he said.
“I’m grateful that I get to come here and have breakfast, in a space as beautiful as this, where education is the first place where we learn about who we are as a nation. God bless America.”