Nine-year-old Jelani Burchette says she knows the importance of having U.S. soldiers defend the country.
Debbie Callan's first-grade class at Bel Air Elementary School stands outside with a shoe box that they wrapped for 1st. Lt. Jeremy Sellars and his platoon. Sellars, a Bel Air Elementary graduate, is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Photo by Quandra Collins
"They're helping our country by fighting for us," the Bel Air Elementary School fourth-grader said. "(They're) helping our country to be free."
Recently, Jelani and some of her classmates at Bel Air Elementary showed their support by starting an effort to help some troops serving in Iraq, including a former Bel Air Elementary pupil.
"They brought in some goods," said Bonnie Pierce, a fourth-grade teacher at Bel Air. "Some of the (pupils') parents are in the military, so they were aware of the things going on.''
On Sept. 10, Bel Air Elementary pupils filled special shoe boxes with donated personal items, greeting cards and letters for 1st Lt. Jeremy Sellars and his platoon, which is stationed in Iraq.
Debbie Callan said the pupils donated more than 40 shoe boxes filled with stationery, candy and other goodies.
"When (myself) and two fourth-grade teachers, Bonnie Pierce and Beverly O'Connell, realized that one of (our) former students was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq, (we) decided to show him and his platoon (we) were thinking about them in a special way," the first-grade teacher said.
Cole Taylor (from left), Samantha Bolten, Jelani Burchette, Lauren Franklin, Malynn Robinson, Auston Franklin and Rico Bussey helped make a specialized gift for Marines in Iraq. They are members of Bel Air Elementary School's first- and fourth-grade classes.
Photo by Quandra Collins
Callan said that after Sellars graduated with honors from Evans High School, he attended Princeton University on an academic and rowing scholarship. Once he graduated from college, Callan said, he joined the Marines.
Connie Norman, a first-grade teacher who taught Sellars, said the project was necessary.
"We want students to recognize Patriot's Day," she said.
The project, which lasted about three weeks, also involved first-grade teachers Heather Munsayac and Tarynn Josey, fourth-grade teacher Fran Cagle and volunteer Laura Hydrick. Callan said it was a success because everyone worked together.
Fourth-grader Mary Catherine Hydrick, 9, said she enjoyed donating shampoo, soap, peanuts and deodorant for the troops.
"It's really important to take care of our soldiers," she said. "They're fighting for our country; they are important people."
Gina Snider, 7, agreed.
"It feels good (to help)," said the first-grade pupil, whose brother Kenneth Estrada is a Marine. "Marines are supposed to be living."
O'Connell said she remembers Sellars fondly, which is why she wanted to participate.
"He went through Bel Air all the way through," she said. "He was an excellent student. I wrote him a letter telling him I was proud of all of his accomplishments, and I wished him well. It seems like yesterday he was in my class."
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