Jan 30, 2013

St. Joan of Arc students honor veterans as part of Catholic Schools Week



Story and photos by Peggy Weber

HOLYOKE – With song, dance, and even sign language, students from St. Joan of Arc School in Chicopee entertained residents at the Soldiers Home, here, Jan. 30.

The visit was part of the Catholic Schools Week celebration and connected the young with the old.

The performance had a special meaning for one member of the audience. Hector “Tony” Page said, “When I saw Joan of Arc coming here, I knew I had to be here!”

Page is a 1933 graduate of St. Joan of Arc School and said he was delighted to meet the current students. At age 91, he said he recalled when the classes were taught at the school in French and English.

“That school has traditions going back past 1933. And to see these children, today, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Page. “They are doing a fantastic job. It’s unbelievable. The training and the discipline showed in their faces and you could see how much they loved what they are doing.”

Alexa Keough, an eighth-grader at St. Joan of Arc, said she loves performing and has been a member of the St. Joan of Arc choir for three years. She and several other students sang religious, patriotic and folk songs. They also “signed” several songs.

The students were connected to the Soldiers Home by the school’s business manager, Gail Boone. Gail is a former employee of the Soldiers Home.

Alexa said that community outreach is a great way for the school to celebrate Catholic Schools Week.

“We try to have fun while doing things that are important – like helping the community, helping out at Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen, collecting canned goods,” she said. “It’s good to have fun and help others at the same time.”

Paula Jenkins (in photo above left, with Hector Page), principal of St. Joan of Arc, said she got teary-eyed watching the students sing to the veterans. “The students are proud to be here. They are glad to be here so it made it very special,” she said.

“As always, we try to encourage the children to give back to the community throughout the year. We heighten it during Catholic Schools Week,” said Jenkins. “We want to make sure that the students really understand how much people, like the veterans, have meant to us as a nation.”

The choir is under the direction of Jeff Braz, music teacher. The liturgical dance troupe, “Spirit Led,” is directed by Carolyn Bliss, a seventh grade teacher.

Watch for more on this story on the Feb. 2 edition of the Springfield Diocese’s weekly newsmagazine program, “Real to Reel” at 7 p.m. on WWLP-22NEWS.