OECD students reflect on nation’s heroes and their own in Memorial Day essay contest – OECD Newsroom

County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares, members of the Board of Education and the American Veterans Freedom Committee of Orange County pose for photos with students who wrote essays and completed illustrations for honor service members who died prior to Memorial Day.

Keon Ferber recalls being at a loss for words when his family visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC

Standing in front of the wall, he watched as strangers placed sheets of white paper over the names of their loved ones and shaded them with crayons, creating keepsakes they could take home.

“The walls seemed to go on for miles and they were full of so many names of Americans who never went home to their family and friends, wrote Ferber, an 11th grader enrolled in the alternative education program of the OECD. “I saw my grandfather reading the names on the wall and the tears came and went.”

Ferber shared his written reflection on Memorial Day, the legacy of sacrifice, and his own family’s military service as part of the eighth annual Jack R. Hammett Memorial Day Essay competition, hosted by the Orange County Board of Education. At Wednesday night’s board meeting, her essay was announced as the best overall submission, winning a cash reward of $350.

While Ferber was unable to personally attend the ceremony, the OECD media services team filmed a video presentation of him reading his essay. He was recognized with his teacher, Steve Larkin.

The Jack R. Hammett Memorial Day Essay competition is named in honor of Jack R. Hammett, a Pearl Harbor survivor who, after retiring as a warrant officer in the US Navy, spent more than 50 years in service from the city of Costa Mesa to the government. and civic affairs roles. Traditionally open to students enrolled in the OECD’s Alternative Education Program, or ACCESS, the competition has expanded this year to include students from the department’s special education program.

In total, ACCESS students produced 36 submissions. Sixteen additional entries — written or illustrated — were submitted by students in Grades 9-12 or the OECD’s Special Education Division’s Adult Transition Program, which serves students with the most severe disabilities. important.

Nazim Abellali, a cadet enrolled in the Sunburst Youth Challenge Academy, received second place and a $250 prize for his submission on his family’s great depth of gratitude to the United States and generations of people who have risked and gave their life. for freedom.

“My parents are from Algeria, an authoritarian state of oppression,” Abellali explained. “The United States was home to the nobility of opportunity. It gave relief to my parents and a home for their family.

Sunburst Youth Academy is a community high school for at-risk youth operated by the California National Guard in partnership with the OECD. Sunburst cadets spend more than five months in a military-style environment that helps them develop leadership, pride, and confidence while earning high school credits. Abellali’s teacher is Jacqueline Cerbin.

Third place went to fellow Sunburst Cadet Destiny Campos, who received $150 for her essay on how the holiday serves as a day to honor the nation’s heroes. She also wrote about her own personal hero, her uncle, who served for the country and was killed 11 years ago in the Syrian conflict.

Campos wrote that she hoped to follow in her uncle’s footsteps by enlisting in the U.S. Army or Marines.

Noah, a transitioning adult student at Harbor Learning Center, was the first special education essay winner, receiving a $350 prize. Although he was unable to attend and read his essay in person, the OECD media services team recorded a video of him reading his reflection. He shared how Memorial Day reminds him to honor service members who have dedicated their lives to their country. His teacher is Dominique Vellanowith.

Cindy, a ninth-grade student in the University High School Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, earned second place in the same category. She received a $250 prize for her essay on how the holidays remind her to thank service members for the freedom she experiences every day. Her teacher is Laurie Drago.

In the art category, Taylor of the OECD Adult Transition Program at Golden West College received $100 for an illustration of a soldier saluting in front of the United States flag with the words “God Bless America” ​​above. of them. Handley’s teacher is Joe Arnold.

Also in attendance were members of the Orange County Liberty Committee, a veterans organization located in Costa Mesa. Veterans bring “living history” into local classrooms by sharing personal stories of service in wars and how their experiences shaped them. This allows students to meet people who helped shape the story they often read about in books.

“We’ve served our country, but at the same time we think there has to be a connection to the past, because otherwise we don’t have a country,” said retired US first lieutenant John ‘Scott’ Williams.

Sharing that same mission, retired veterans including U.S. Army Major Alan Harvard, U.S. Army Captain Timothy Richards, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Scott Williams, and Navy Senior Chief American Gary Tegel, who took turns sharing their names, ranks and tours in front of the board.

The OECD ACCESS program – the acronym stands for Alternative, Community and Correctional Education Schools and Services – is a nationally recognized alternative education system that provides transformative learning experiences and support to students across the county. of Orange. It serves more than 10,000 students annually, including young people who have encountered significant academic and social barriers, as well as students who thrive in non-traditional settings.

The Special Education Division of the OECD has 14 campuses in Orange County to serve students with the most significant disabilities, as well as students who require deaf and hard of hearing services and those with emotional disorders. Referrals to the program, which teaches skills aligned with California State standards, are made by each student’s district of residence when a more intensive educational setting is needed.

The Orange County School Board is made up of five elected officials who each serve a four-year term. Board responsibilities include approving the OECD budget, signing off on property purchases for departmental programs, and deciding expulsion appeals, interdistrict attendance appeals, and charter school appeals. .

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