Students and staff across the Socorro Independent School District honored those who have fought for our freedom and safety with numerous special tributes and events for Veterans Day.
Socorro High School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps had a special Veterans Day ceremony in the school’s band room.
All veterans and active military from El Paso County and the surrounding area were welcomed to the event and enjoyed a musical performance by Socorro High School mariachi group Los Gavilanes and breakfast prepared by culinary arts students.
“I appreciate what Socorro High School has put together for us today,” said retired Marine Ismael Samaniego Jr. “I am honored to be here.”
Taps was played to honor the lost and a lone table was left aside in memory of those fallen and prisoners of war. A row of American flags adorned the front of the school in tribute to the veterans.
Benito Martinez Elementary School also had its Veterans Day celebration for veterans and active military. The celebration included breakfast for the special guests and a parade, which included the entire community.
Various school organizations, as well as neighboring schools participated in the parade, with students walking side-by-side with the veterans and military servicemen and women or riding along in Army vehicles.
“This says a lot about the El Paso community because they are showing support, which is definitely something that the military needs,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Sosa.
School personnel recognized veterans and active military close to the Benito Martinez community, delivered words in honor of all those serving and held a moment of silence for those who’ve passed or been lost.
“It’s important because the veterans have sacrificed their lives on the line so that we can have freedom,” said Alexis Salazar, fifth-grade cheer captain at Benito Martinez Elementary. “I think it’s really important to celebrate and honor them.”
El Paso Community College (EPCC) adopted Benito Martinez Elementary as part of its school adoption program during a proclamation ceremony held at the school on December 6.
EPCC President Dr. William Serrata welcomed Fort Hancock Independent School District (FHISD) Superintendent Jose G. Franco, Benito Martinez Principal, Yadira Muñoz and the student body to the program.
“A student is never too young to learn the importance of going to college,” Dr. William Serrata, EPCC President said. “Reaching out to elementary school students and their parents allows students to learn that higher education is within their reach and we build a college-going culture.”
Benito Martinez Elementary is EPCC’s eighth school adopted and first for FHISD.
“Benito Martinez Elementary will engage in meaningful partnership with El Paso Community College to provide a significant way to involve our students, staff and community in creating career and college awareness.” Yadira Munoz, Benito Martinez Elementary Principal, said.
Previously EPCC adopted Campestre Elementary from Socorro Independent School District, Frederick Douglass Elementary from El Paso Independent School District, Ramona Elementary from Ysleta Independent School District, Canutillo Elementary School from Canutillo Independent School District, Frank Macias Elementary School for the Clint Independent School District, O’Donnell Intermediate School from Fabens Independent School District and Lorenzo G. Alarcon Elementary School from San Elizario Independent School District.
EPCC officials said that they have plans to continue adopting elementary schools across its district.
“EPCC is committed to increasing the number of students going to college in the region,” EPCC officials added via a news release. “By building strong elementary school and college connections through campus tours, workshops, presentations, outreach programs and parental involvement, EPCC is building a college-going culture.”
EPCC currently serves more than 28,500 students and offers 145 degree and certificate programs.
Five more schools have opened Little Free Libraries outside their front doors to make books more accessible and boost students’ reading skills.
Robert R. Rojas Elementary, Ernesto Serna Elementary, Benito Martinez Elementary, Sgt. Jose F. Carrasco Elementary and Salvador H. Sanchez Middle schools have added the small doll-house-like structures, filled with books donated by non-profits, district police officers, librarians, teachers, staff and the community.
“Little Free Libraries are important for our schools because they help strengthen community bonds,” said Marcy Sparks, SISD’s library services coordinator. “It’s not just that students have more access to books, but it’s also taking responsibility to make sure it’s well cared for and anyone in the community can help lead in that effort. That’s why many of our leadership organizations, like the Boys and Girls Scouts, have sponsored a few of our libraries and help make sure they continue to provide reading material in a safe space.”
The district’s goal is to equip all elementary and K-8 schools with Little Free Libraries, Sparks said. There are currently about 20 of the small libraries at SISD schools.
“What I love about the Little Free Library movement is the visual reminder for our communities that reading is important,” Sparks said. “When our communities value literacy, then we all benefit.”
Drs. Steve and Georgia Lane, of Farmington, N.M., have been huge contributors to the literacy cause in SISD. Through the couple’s Three Rivers Education Foundation, they donated three Little Free Libraries that went to Rojas, Serna and Sanchez and thousands of books to those schools and others in the district.
“This is what the foundation is all about,” Georgia Lane said. “The SISD schools we work with had expressed a need, so we wanted to
fulfill it. We want to help increase literacy in schools. We love what we do. It’s heartwarming to see how happy the students are. We want to make a difference in a child’s life.”
Benito Martinez Principal Greg Hatch took it upon himself to build his school’s Little Free Library. It was a week’s worth of hard work, but it was a true success, he said.
“I wanted to make sure my scholars had each and every opportunity to learn and excel,” Hatch said. “This year, we are placing an even stronger emphasis on reading. I have purchased novels for each and every grade level. I am pushing using authentic literature to teach reading as opposed to using dittos and passages. If I truly believe that my scholars learn reading by being authentically engaged in reading, then I must ensure that regardless of the day or the hour they have access to books. The Little Library ensures exactly that.”
The small cabinet, sitting near the entrance, is a big hit with students, who are happy to have one more place to grab a book.
“I have seen students make sure they take a book with them as they leave the campus,” Hatch said. “While working nights and weekends, I have seen students drop by and get a book during non-school hours. I believe that it truly is sending the message that reading is important and that the only way you get better at reading is by reading.”
For Carrasco Elementary, the SISD Police Department donated a Little Free Library. The school, named after the district’s first police sergeant who ensured students’ safety for more than 34 years, has a student population hungry to read.
“Librarian Cori Stothart approached us with the idea of the Little Free Library at which point we decided it was a no brainer,” said SISD
Police Chief Joe Castorena. “The little library was not the only item donated. We also donated a large number of books that we had inherited previously when we took over the district’s former mobile library. Having all those items, we decided our kids should enjoy the benefits of reading. So, we did it.”
Stothart is so grateful for the incredible gift and continued support from Chief Castorena and the SISD police department.
“Our community’s heart is warmed knowing that they are taking care of us!” Stothart said. “Our scholars are amazed that they have 24-hour access to a completely free resource. I am especially grateful to be in a position to foster a greater understanding of what all libraries are truly about: equal access to information for everyone.”
The Benito Martinez Elementary community wanted to give the residents of the year 2042 a glimpse of what education was like in the years 2016 and 2017.
At the end of the school year, the campus filled an ice chest with letters, mementos, an American flag and a STAAR T-shirt among other things, glued it shut and buried the time capsule in the front patio of the school.
“We have been collecting items all year long to bury in our time capsule,” said Principal Greg Hatch. “In the first year that Benito Martinez was opened, they did the same thing and then buried a time capsule at the end of that year. We dug up the time capsule at the end of last year.”
The reason for the event was teaching students the importance of setting goals for the future. Many of the writing samples were students’ ideas about what they want to be, where they want to be, and what their dreams are, Hatch said.
“We wanted the kids to consider the future and what did they imagine it would be like in 25 years,” Hatch said. “We also thought that kids 25 years from now would be just like my kids, who had no idea what it was like for the Benito Martinez kids that buried their time capsule 25 years ago.”
Back then, students could have no idea what fidget spinners are. There were no personal computers in every classroom. Digital learning and tablets at our fingertips were something of the future. The writings and items placed in the time capsule captured what life is like for students today.
“This was a way to leave a little bit of ourselves behind for the future,” Hatch added.
Hatch wrote a letter to the future principal. He described everything that was in the box, including a yellow T-shirt in honor of two students who were battling cancer. A faculty picture and a letter from Assistant Principal, Bruce Mooy, to his newborn son, also were added.
“My main contributions were my hopes and my dreams that I wrote to the future principal, hoping that this great group of scholars I have here today can chase those dreams that they wrote about, be able to meet them, fulfill them and be wonderful, contributing members of society,” Hatch said.
Stephanie Alvarado Acosta, a fifth grader at Benito Martinez, wrote a letter for the time capsule that said she wanted to be either an author or a veterinarian.
“I am glad I did it,” Alvarado Acosta said. “It was so interesting. I like that it helps others see what was in the past and what we want to be in the future.”
To view all the pictures from the ceremony, click HERE.