Jane Ryan students sing, collect items for soldiers at Veterans Day concert Wednesday

Jane Ryan Elementary School will host its annual Veterans Day concert Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. In attendance will be veterans who have served, or are currently serving, in the Armed Forces.

The group will speak to students about their experiences — one veteran is assigned to each class, and the day concludes with a patriotic musical program.

A "Wall of Honor," featuring photos brought in by students, will welcome veterans as they enter the school and a slideshow of submitted photos will be played as the school's fifth grade chorus class performs.

"There will be 150 veterans, ranging from as young as 20 years old to 80 years old, who will visit the school and talk to their students about their experiences," said Marianne Ferrari, a student council advisor who's helping organize the event.

"The veterans come in in their uniforms and that makes it feel very real," she added. "And the students learn more about what's happened outside of this country — what's happening globally in the world — and they come away with a lot more appreciation for what it means to be an American."

Each veteran has a personal connection with a Jane Ryan student or faculty member in an event that keeps getting "bigger and better."

"It started as a concert then we added the classroom visit then the wall of honor and all the pictures," said Jane Ryan Music Teacher Olya Fryz, who first started organizing the celebration six years ago.

"It goes beyond just making a card," she said. "Students are asked to bring a family member who's been in the military, or who is currently serving, and it's just very engaging for them.

"They leave school feeling directly connected to our country," she added. "A lot more connected then they ever could feel watching something on TV or reading about it in a book."

This year, Kathy Lyddy Sullivan, of The Blue Star Moms of Stratford, will participate and collect items that have been donated to be sent to military men and women overseas. The connection with Blue Stars Moms is personal as they ship directly to relatives of friends of Jane Ryan students and staff currently serving.

Ferrari said some of the items that have been collected are toothpaste, gum, coffee, crossword puzzle books and socks.

The students put them in patriotic-decorated boxes that are given to The Blue Star Moms at the end of the concert Wednesday.

"I have about 10 boxes outside of my room already," said Pam DeCesare, who teaches at the school and helped organize the donations.

"Giving back gets them very excited," she added. "It gives them pride in their country and pride in themselves that they're contributing and being involved...

"They're very proud to do a little something that's more than just writing thank you on a card."

Ferrari called the ceremony her favorite event of the school year.

"The students always walk away with a better sense of what a veteran is, what the different branches of services are in this country and who's been fighting to secure our American privileges," she said.

"It always leaves both the kids and the adults reflecting about what it means to be an American," she added.

For Fryz, who always teaches tunes like "God Bless America" and "Proud To Be An American" to her students, this as an opportunity to perform what has been learned in the classroom.

"It's a huge part of my curriculum," she said. "I want my students to know what it means to be patriotic."

Below is a copy of a note that went out to Jane Ryan families last week from Olya Fryz:

Do you know any veterans? Is there a loved one in your family or perhaps in your neighborhood who has served (or is presently serving) in any of our armed forces? The Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or Air Force? We want you! We want our students to see real Veterans and honor all of their dedication, commitment and sacrifice.

  • Please invite your Veterans to join us. It would truly mean a lot to our students and faculty to be able to share our songs and to honor our Veterans through our music. If your friends or relatives are Veterans (or current soldiers) and they could join us at 2:00 pm on Nov. 11th, please fill out the RSVP below.

  • Also, this year we would like to invite our soldiers and veterans to visit with our classrooms at 1:30 pm before the concert.  This way, our veterans can share special mementos or memories with the students.  Please be sure to note which classroom you would like to visit with.

Our goal is to make “our veterans” feel special. Because of space issues related to having grades  K-4 in the audience, we need to limit the adult attendees to Veterans & their families only!  We look forward to hearing from you.                                 

Any questions e-mail: fryzo@trumbullps.org.