December 7, 2018 10:35:15 AM
Mary Pollitz - [email protected]
Last year, seventh grader Shannon McElhinney's parents received a letter in the mail from one of her classmates.
McElhinney's father, a squadron commander at Columbus Air Force Base, got the letter during Heritage Academy's Veteran's Day project, where students wrote thank you cards to local military men and women. This year, through a national program, McElhinney paid that kindness forward as one of the Heritage Academy students who wrote more than 1,700 more thank you cards for members of the military.
When seventh and eighth grade English teacher Carla Davis heard about the 100,000 Thank Yous on the radio, she wanted her students to help that mission. 100,000 Thank Yous is an annual goal by the Ty, Chuck and Kelly Show, a radio program based in Nashville, Tennessee. The radio show hoped to receive 100,000 thank you cards for military personnel, which will be mailed throughout the year.
"Since I teach English, it's a great opportunity for (the students) to be writing," Davis said. "To do a thank you card for a soldier with us being in an area where we have the Air Force and we have a lot of military students and parents, that it would just be a good opportunity for them to do what they could."
With 81 students, Davis's classroom decorated a total of 1,725 cards that will be delivered throughout the year by the radio station. The 100,000 Thank Yous ended this month and more than doubled its goal with 209,433 thank you cards mailed to the radio station.
McElhinney was immediately excited about sending her gratitude to various members of the military.
"(My parents) were happy and surprised because they got one of my classmate's (letters)," McElhinney said. "It was nice because I know that it's going to make them happy because it made my parents happy."
McElhinney said she not only showed gratitude for their service and sacrifice, she added a personal touch and wrote about her parents' journey in the armed forces. Most students decorated the front of the card and wrote letters inside, not only thanking the military for their service, but also writing about what they do in school and their favorite sports.
Davis said unlike most assignments, she did not have to force her students to participate.
"It was really nice to see them put their heart into something, and it got them writing," Davis said. "Half the time, when I ask them to write, it's not something that excites them. But this got them excited. They were all about it and they were so excited to write these. Seeing them develop their sentences and everything was really exciting for me. I read every one of them."
At first, Laina Holder, 13, thought she was decorating Christmas cards for soldiers. When Davis told Holder the cards and letters would be mailed throughout the year, Holder was excited soldiers would receive letters more often than just the holidays. Davis challenged her classrooms to create 1,500 letters in just two weeks.
"When she told us we were trying to make that many letters, I didn't think we were going to get to it," Holder said. "We did because we all wrote three or four a day. It wasn't like a chore, it was kind of cool knowing that they would go to people far away."
Though the students only worked on letters the first ten minutes of each class period, Davis said she hopes to have ignited a passion in not only English but also letter-writing.
"I try to make English interactive and fun because after ten worksheets, they don't want to work anymore," Davis said. "This was one way I knew I could get them to write. They really started getting into it and they were really thinking about what they were saying."