By Tamas Mondovics
For the past eight years Randall Middle School students have taken part in remembering the victims of the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks.
This year is no exception as on Monday, September 11, 2017, the students will once again take action to display a giant Patriot Day Memorial in the school yard as memorial markers for every one of the 2,977 victims will be placed in the ground in the shape of an American flag.
According to Randall Middle School social studies teacher and memorial director Kristy Verdi, the project organized through the Randall Area Youth Service (R.A.Y.S.) program since 2009, is much more than just an annual event.
“Through their social studies classes and by participation in creating the markers along with classroom instruction, the students learn about the events, causes and impact September 11, 2001 has had on our nation,” Verdi said.
Verdi explained that the R.A.Y.S. class is a service-learning leadership elective for 7th and 8th grade students with its course objective to train young leaders in community service so that they may lead other students and the community in volunteer, community service, and service-learning activities.
Since the students at Randall were born after 2001, many do not know what happened on 9/11 and why it is now remembered as Patriot Day.
Verdi emphasized that this memorial effort allows students to learn the history and make connections with the community, especially the strong military community in the Lithia area.
“This is the intent of service-learning,” she said. “The students are learning relevant content through service to others.”
In 2011 the R.A.Y.S. program was recognized by the KidsVote organization as the National Impact Award recipient. The project itself was also recognized by TrueHero.org with a $1,000 grant, a $200 grant from 911.org, and will be receiving a $1,500 grant through Youth Service America this year. The funds are used for materials and supplies associated with it as well as for the various veterans support projects.
In the past, the memorial effort was also joined by Newland Communities to purchase durable pre-colored markers and plastic stakes to make the project more sustainable and easier for students to assemble. Home Depot supplied the storage bins that are used to house the memorial when not in use and Neff Rentals supplied a lift for photography for the event.
The students hope to arrange lighting for this year’s display to be visible from the road at night.
The public is invited to visit the memorial anytime after 4:30 on Monday, September 11-14. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the memorial by reading the student-created biographies that are attached to the markers. To support the R.A.Y.S. service-learning projects, please contact email@example.com.