Students show appreciation to front-line workers
NCCS gives back
In a year when so many have lost so much, upholding the values of gratitude, generosity and appreciation is more important than ever.
For Northern Chautauqua Catholic School students and their teachers, this fall’s return to in-person learning has been a tremendous blessing. In the words of Principal Andy Ludwig, “During this season of thanksgiving, Monarch Nation is so thankful for our dedicated and hard-working teachers and staff, our students, parents, trustees and our extended NCCS school family. We are so thankful that we have been able to have a glorious fall with three months of daily face-to-face learning at our wonderful little school.”
At NCCS, students are not only fully engaged in their schoolwork, but also in the important service learning that Chautauqua County’s only Catholic school has valued since day one. Throughout the month of November, NCCS students, from PreK3 all the way through grade eight, have been showing their appreciation for local front-line workers and giving back to the community.
Throughout the month, Mrs. Abbey Whitcher’s PreK3 students have celebrated those who serve our community through “Thankful Thursday” events. On Nov. 5, her students created posters and cards for members of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department and the Dunkirk Police Department to recognize their commitment to protect our community. “They were all very excited to make cards and go on a little field trip,” said Whitcher, who walked her students to the Dunkirk Police Station to deliver their gifts. “The kids were thrilled when the officers came outside to accept their cards!”
Subsequent Thankful Thursday visits included a trip to the Dunkirk Fire Department on Eagle Street, where students also shared their cards and thanks to city firefighters, and a celebration of local nurses, including NCCS School Nurse Erica Boner. Whitcher explained, “We just want to recognize what these individuals do for our community, especially during this pandemic. These are jobs that can’t be done remotely, and we so appreciate what they do for us.”
For Whitcher, these events are inspired by the education she received while a student at NCCS. “I remember in second grade that Mrs. Clemens made tributes to our firemen and police officers, and that was such an important lesson for us,” she explained. “I’m excited to continue this with my own students.”
Honoring area veterans is a long-standing tradition at NCCS. This year, prep school social studies teacher Deborah Mourer has joined forces with prep school math teacher Karen Nalepa for the annual Advent Veterans Service Project. Mourer explained, “For the past 13 years, I’ve organized this service project that students work on in the weeks leading up to Christmas break. Honoring and supporting our veterans is so important to me, as my dad served in Japan in World War II, and so did his brothers and my mom’s brothers. My brothers are veterans, too.”
Each year, Mourer creates a project that relates to her social studies lessons: “One year, we collected socks for veterans, because warm socks were one of the biggest needs of George Washington’s army. Another year, we collected canned goods, including fruits and vegetables, and we talked about the risk of scurvy that American troops faced. We also collected chocolate bars for veterans, which tied into our unit on the Vietnam War and how our troops would often give their chocolate bars to the Vietnamese children.” Each year, students’ gifts and cards are given to the VA Clinic in Dunkirk, which distributes them to local veterans.
For this year’s project, NCCS students and families have donated money and supplies for personal protective equipment for local veterans, including a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and a hand-made mask. Nalepa, an experienced quilter-turned-mask-maker, was originally planning to make quilts with her Craft Club students last year, but plans changed when school closed in March. She said, “This year, I asked my students if they would want to make masks for our veterans instead, and they loved the idea!”
Nalepa and her students are making reversible masks with patriotic fabric on one side and fabric representative of each branch of the U.S. military on the other. “Our goal is to make 200 masks, and I think we’ll exceed it,” Nalepa said. Mourer agreed. “Every year, we’ve exceeded our goal,” she said. “When we collected socks, our goal was 200 paris. We ended up collecting 450!”
On Monday, NCCS’ Mission Club, led by Marcia Miller, concluded their month-long food drive project to collect non-perishable items to distribute to local families in need this Thanksgiving through St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s food pantry. During Monday’s Blessing of Food Prayer Service, Miller and Frs. Paul Abhulimen and Peter Santandreu of SEAS led the student body in prayer over the 90 bags of food, which totaled over 600 pounds.
“Children are innately kind, generous, caring and loving,” said Ludwig. “We are so happy to be able to nurture these qualities in our young people every day at Northern Chautauqua Catholic School. Our gratitude and Thanksgiving projects show just how caring our Mighty Monarchs are.”