Jo Ann Rigano is a Beavercreek, Ohio third grade teacher who extends herself beyond the classroom. She teaches her students the true meaning of civic responsibility by providing opportunities for her students to reach out to others as she integrates the opportunity into the everyday curriculum. She teaches her students that anything is possible if you “make it happen.” This year Jo Ann and her class chose to adopt New York City Fire Squad 270 because of the September 11th tragedy. After much discussion with her class and other staff members, Rigano involved the entire school, 518 students and 45 staff members, in the adoption process.
The project started with a 40’by 72″ banner that announced the schools’ intention of adopting the fire squad. Each student and staff member wrote a personal message on the banner. Rigano then assigned each grade level a month and then that group was responsible for sending the squad “we care for you” packages. Between October 2001 and June 2002, the squad received a total of forty-two packages.
On March 12,2002, Rigano received a fax from FDNY firefighter, Frank Leeb, stating that he and two fellow firefighters from squad 270 were interested in visiting Valley Elementary to thank the students and staff for their compassion. The dates agreed upon for the visit were June 4 through June 8, 2002.
The project then turned into a special event that linked together the two parts of the country. The students learned about New York City while the firefighters learned about Beavercreek.
Miami Valley businesses offered free services and products, including round trip airline tickets and free hotel rooms for the visitors. The delivery of the “we care for you” packages became more frequent because the entire community got involved.
On June 4 the Beavercreek community and the surrounding Miami Valley welcomed the three firefighters. The firefighters showed their appreciation by presenting Rigano with a cross welded from a World Trade Center beam and an American flag, (now on display in Valley Elementary School) which flew over squad 270’s command post at Ground Zero. This turned into quite a newsworthy event as millions of people shared in the visit through the media reports.
The firefighters returned to New York on June 8, but the relationship continues. Students are continuing to correspond with FDNY squad. Rigano visited squad 270 in late June and will return again in early August. Frank Leeb is bringing his family to visit Valley Elementary in late July.
Evidence of this successful life lesson is apparent in the letters that Rigano continues to receive from parents, students, teachers, and community members. As one parent said in a letter about her son, “He has seen how something small can grow and flourish. He believes he can accomplish anything; nothing is impossible.”