I serve as head teacher at Platte Valley Elementary School in Grand Island, Nebraska, where I have students in grades 2-8. During the first semester social studies class, my students and I studied about our hometown and came to the agreement that it is a nice, safe location to live.

Because we appreciate this safety, I asked my students if they would like to put together a program for the local police officers, EMTs, firefighters and veterans to honor them for their service in our city and country. The students were eager to thank these local public safety officers, so we began planning. We decided to have a community appreciation breakfast and program.

The students created flyers and handouts, and they sketched a variety of scenes for the invitees. Personal letters of thanks were written as well. At the event, the girls performed a cheerleading song and the boys sang a Yankee Doodle song. The students also did a choral recitation of the Gettysburg Address, presented a tone chime version of America the Beautiful, and performed an original song entitled You’ve Been Working in Our City.

A tribute to public safety officers

On the day of the program, students excitedly lined up at the door to greet guests and escort them to the breakfast buffet. American flags lined the driveway leading to the school entrance and the gymnasium was adorned in red, white and blue streamers, banners, banquet tables and decorations.

The students introduced themselves to the guests, then the honored guests introduced themselves and described their work in the community. Thirty-one members of the Grand Island Police Department, Fire/EMT Departments, Sheriff’s Department and Veterans attended the event.

The students expressed thoughtful sentiments toward the guests throughout the program. In memory of those who lost their lives in service, two students played a tribute on lap harps.

Each visitor was given a selection of student drawings and a tri-fold flyer of thank you notes, along with a business card-sized pledge that we will keep them in prayer each morning at school.

I closed the program with a personal address to our guests. It was the story of my husband on the day we arrived to Grand Island when we had experienced firsthand the amazing dedication of the Grand Island public safety officers (insert link).

Appreciating and praying for our visitors

As an educator I have led mutiple programs to help students realize the importance of getting to know those who give of themselves to serve their community. I have found that meeting with men and women in uniform face to face has helped many children understand that these brave people are real, and they actually care about students, their families and our town.

These special men and women have proven to be a blessing to my family, and they are now appreciated by my students and school family as well.

Following the program, the firefighters, EMTs and police officers invited the students to tour their emergency vehicles. The students were able to see these men and women as people who not only keep us safe, but also enjoy what they do.

The Platte Valley Elementary students did a wonderful job letting our visitors know they are appreciated, and we continue to pray for each one of them every morning at school.

Cathy Tomlinson is head teacher at Platte Valley Elementary School in Grand Island, Nebraska.