For the last six years the ninth grade students at L’Anse Creuse High School in Michigan have taken part in the Ann Landers “Valentines for Veterans” Project. The project takes place in all ninth grade English Language classes. Students read stories like The Odyssey and other literature that examines the theme of heroes and explore their own families for members who have served their country in the military. After a lesson on letter writing, students prepare a letter to a veteran in a Veteran’s Hospital. In their letters, the students include references to the materials from English and Social Studies classes, refer to the service offered by their family and friends, and finally extend an appreciation to the veteran for his/her contributions to American freedoms. The final edited copies of these letters are placed on high quality patriotic paper. The project includes taking a bus load of students to Veteran’s Hospital in Detroit to hand deliver the letters. Several students are chosen from each class to represent their classmates, and upon returning from the Hospital, they report their experiences to classmates.
On Valentine’s Day 2006, George, a ninth grade student had the idea of filming the visit to Veteran’s Hospital so all ninth grade students could have a visual tour of the facility, meet some of the patients and share the impact the letters have on the veterans. George became a model of leadership when he packed up his own video camera and spent the entire visit videotaping the facility and his classmates interacting with the patients.
While there, he met a gentleman who was a Vietnam Veteran, a member of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 129, and a 1962 graduate of L’Anse Creuse High School. This gentleman offered to visit the high school, speak with the students about his experiences, and participate in the video. George taped this visit as well. With hours of material, George began the innovative and creative work of editing, cutting, pasting, adding music and visuals to produce an outstanding 10-minute video. This work was performed on George’s own time, in his home, with his equipment and the finished product was shown to all teachers and students at L’Anse Creuse High School just prior to Memorial Day. As all 1700 students in L’Anse Creuse had been involved in the letter-writing project, they were very impacted by what they saw in this video.
The impact of this project continues as all of our new 430 ninth grade students, as well as all future students, have the opportunity to view this video as they begin working on their letters. This Valentines for Veterans Project will become more realistic and meaningful thanks to the vision and hard work of this young student, George. It was for his contribution of the “Valentines for Vets Video” that George won the 2007 Learn and Serve—Michigan Outstanding Service-Learning Student Award.