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Cowell students share sentiments
This patriotic snapshot shows the student body and staff of Joshua Cowell Elementary School, along with first responders who attended the September 11 Patriot Day celebration. The aerial picture was taken by Mark Hathaway, a fire engineer for the City of San Jose. Hathaway lent the old fire truck, part of his personal collection, for the occasion. - photo by Photo Contributed

Joshua Cowell Elementary School president Mckena Hoppis challenged her schoolmates by calling on them to do this simple task: “I would like for everyone, when they see a first responder, if you could just smile and just say thank you. I know it makes a big impact on them.”

She sent out her challenge during the Sept. 11 Patriot Day and Day of Service and Remembrance annual assembly held in the school courtyard’s Peace Garden. Invited as special guests that day were all first responders. Previous honorees in the last three years’ Patriot Day celebration were soldiers and veterans.

Each event features thoughts and sentiments shared by members of the student body. Some of these handwritten thoughts are contained in the letters the students have written to American soldiers serving overseas, and are packed along with the care packages that are mailed by the Cpl. Charles O. Palmer Memorial Treats for Troops Program.

A few of them were read by the students who wrote them during the annual program held to remember the heroes of the 911 terrorist attacks, the American soldiers who went on to fight in the subsequent War on Terror at great sacrifice with hundreds – and counting – paying the ultimate price, and all the innocent victims of the worst attack on American soil.

McKenna Hoppis, Joshua Cowell School Student Body president, shared two quotes during last week’s program to stress the importance of first responders to everyone. The first quote was by Joe Lieberman, former United States Senator: “Every day, first respondents put their own lives on the line to ensure our safety; the least we could do is make sure that they have all the tools to protect and serve their communities.” The second quote was by Kathleen Sebelius, former Secretary of Health and Human Services: “The men and women who serve this great nation, whether they are stationed in Iraq, Fort Riley, Korean Peninsula, or serve at home as our community first responders, serve because they believe in America.”

In her own message, Julia Bledsoe, Cowell School Student Body vice president, thanked all first responders who “are involved in every emergency in our community daily, 24 hours a day,” by quoting John Bunyan: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Additionally, to further drive home the message of service that arose from September 11 tragedy, the students bring to school items for the Treats for Troops project as part of the annual Patriot Day assembly. Last year, the children’s donations filled 67 care packages which were mailed to soldiers overseas. Last week’s collection more than doubled last year’s number of packages.

“The Palmer volunteers filled 145 care packages! Wow! That exceeded my wildest imaginings,” a very excited Joshua Cowell Principal Bonnie Bennett reported.

Along with that exciting news is a request for donations to mail those care packages, especially since stamp costs went up on Sept. 8. It now costs $15.85 to mail each box. Anyone who can help is asked to send cash donations for this purpose. Checks may be made out to the American Legion Post 249 with MTSP marked in the memo box.

“They can be mailed to Joshua Cowell Elementary School and we will pass them on to the Palmers,” Bennett said.

The school is located at 740 Pestana Ave, Manteca, CA 95336.