By: Hannah Johnson and Cade Stotts
The Adopt-A-Vet program was started at the beginning of the 2016 school year by the NHS History Club.
The idea was brought to Mr. Steve Quesinberry by the History Club Vice President, Stephanie Cannon, NHS senior.
Stephanie explained her motivation for starting the new program, “I wanted to give students the opportunity to have a committed service project with veterans throughout the year.”
Mr. Quesinberry is the main sponsor of Adopt-a-Vet along with the Department Chair of the NHS History Department.
He explained how he had never heard of an idea like the program before and could not find another school doing it, “I never thought about the idea. I went home and googled it and could not find anything else like it.”
Mr. Quesinberry noted though how his initial uncertainties have been replaced by the success of the program, “The veterans love it. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but they really do enjoy it.”
Bill Harrison, an active veteran that is a part of the Adopt-a-Vet program, commented, “I really liked the concept and purpose of the program. It makes a lot of sense to me that I get to know each student. I love talking to the classes here, but talking to students eyeball to eyeball makes it more real.”
Harrison served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1966 as a Civil Affairs Engineer.
Mr. Quesinberry continued to state, “The students have also been very responsive as well. It’s good that they can interact intergenerationally. The vets don’t have contact with kids [their] age unless it’s their grandkids. Young people usually are known for bad stuff, but it’s really good that the kids can represent a good side.”
Danna Subia, the President of the History Club and NHS senior, commented, “I think it’s really important that we have the opportunity to interact with veterans.”
There are a little over fifty students who have adopted a vet and thirteen vets who actively participate with this specific NHS initiative.
Adopt-a-Vet is a program that is specifically designed to connect a small group of NHS students to a local veteran. Stephanie stated, “Groups of two to four students are assigned to a local veteran. Throughout the year, students bring him gifts and baked goods and also meet with him.”
Some of the veterans that participate in the program also come to speak in the Vietnam War and World War II classes. They visit both to share their experiences and wisdom in an effort to educate students about their service as well as what life was like during those specific periods in history.
Harrison noted how he appreciates the program Mr. Quesinberry has established at NHS, “I like what Steve has done. I get to know each of my students very well by talking to them about other things besides the war. It makes it so we get to know each other in a deeper way.”
Danna explained how “It’s awesome that we get to learn about our history not just from a textbook or teacher, but from people that experienced it first hand.”
Students in the program love getting to spend time with veterans, because sitting down with an actual person is much more interesting and interactive than quietly sitting in a classroom reading from a book.
Savannah Sherrer, a student in the Adopt-a-Vet program and NHS senior, stated, “My favorite part is getting to spend time listening to the first hand experiences of someone who actually experienced the hardships of serving in the military.”
Savannah continued to say, “I have also made a great new friend.”
By allowing the students to get to know a veteran in a smaller group of people, they learn more about the veteran and his experience before, during, and after his time of service.
They also like the more personal interaction, because it is a more interesting way of learning.
“I like the idea that an actual veteran is talking to us face to face instead of reading information out of a textbook or listening to a teacher lecture,” Callie McKoy, a student in the Adopt-a-Vet program and NHS junior, stated.
Students and veterans normally meet face to face about two times a semester. They talk about each other’s lives as well as the veteran’s past life experiences. Along with the usual two conversations in person they also send cards, candy or small gifts to celebrate holidays and birthdays.
Bill Harrison exclaimed how he wishes as many veterans as possible could participate in the program and have the same positive experience he has had connecting with high schoolers.
“It allows me to look back at the war in a really different context,” Harrison said. “I look at it from different aspects instead of just physically.”
Roy Pitts, who served in the United States Navy during World War ll, is another veteran who participates in the Adopt-a-Vet program.
He joined the navy in from 1942 to 1945. He was on the U.S Biloxi and actively served in the Pacific theater.
Pitts has been able to share his story in more depth with the small group of students he is paired with through Adopt-a-Vet. Not only has his group been able to hear about his story in the Navy, but they also get to hear his story about the before and after parts as well.
In addition to serving in the military, Pitts grew up in Coweta County. Being able to talk about the county ninety years ago is a very interesting way for students to learn the history of where they are also from, and hearing it from a first hand account of a person who has lived through such extraordinary changes makes a rare opportunity for students even more special.
Natalie Warthen, a student who is a member of the Adopt-a-Vet program and NHS sophomore, commented, “I like being able to experience a bit of history outside of the classroom.”
Natalie’s adopted veteran, Richard Dixon, stated, “They take such good care of me. I get cookies, balloons, flowers and the best of all friendship with four band members who are the best in the world.”
Mr. Dixon continued to say, “I really enjoy interacting with the folks in high school now to get an idea of what is going on in the world. It makes you feel good to see the intelligence and maturity of high schoolers now.”
Another student in Mr. Dixon’s Adopt-a-Vet group and a NHS junior, Rachel Wright said, “You get to learn how things were in the past from people who were there.”
Mr. Quesinberry reflected on the programs first year and commented, “This test year we learned some stuff about how to operate the program and improve the communication through the students.”