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SV 8th-graders pen notes to troops

Seneca Valley eigth-grader Alyssa Evers, 13, works on a holiday greeting card for active duty military members in Kayla Keown's family and consumer science class at Ryan Gloyer Middle School on Dec. 8. Evers was an organizer for the project.

JACKSON TWP — Nearly 70 years ago, Bing Crosby crooned “I'll Be Home for Christmas” to honor homesick soldiers.

This year, a student-led Seneca Valley School District group penned letters to overseas service members in the same fashion.

“We wanted to do something nice for the troops,” said Breanna Niebauer, 13.

Breanna, a student at Ryan Gloyer Middle School, is a member of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America, or FCCLA. The group came up with an idea to mail handwritten cards to the United Soldiers & Sailors of America organization.

The group's purpose is “just to give back,” said Kayla Keown, an eighth-grade teacher at the middle school. “The group promotes leadership and community, and so they felt it would be a good way to promote that community sense: by involving those who were not able to be home and who are a part of the military.”

With four students in the organization — three eighth-graders and one 12th-grader — plus the work of some of Keown's classes, Seneca students were able to send about 100 completely handwritten cards. She described the four student leaders as “determined students.”Keown said the students didn't know to which U.S. military branch the cards would be mailed, or in which geographic location service members would receive their cards.Despite these unknowns, the students showed determination to complete the notes.

“The students had complete creative liberty with the messages that they wrote and what they drew on them,” Keown added. “But they were all holiday-based cards and thank-you notes.”And, true to Keown's word, the students involved in the project's conception were passionate.“I just thought we should do something nice for the (soldiers) who won't be able to make it home for Christmas,” said Alyssa Evers, 13, one of the organizers.It wasn't just the organizers who were invested in the project, either. While Keown said students in her classes were minimally involved — “just so we could contribute as much as we could before the (Dec. 5) deadline to submit them,” she said — it was a passion project for those who participated.

“They seemed to enjoy it,” Keown said. “All of them like to be able to show off their creativity, and they are all appreciative of what the service members do for them, and they understand that sacrifice and not being able to be home.”Plus, with eighth-graders making up three-quarters of the FCCLA group, it was at least something they could do.“They can't really contribute financially and whatnot, but they can do projects like this,” Keown said. “It was really student-led through this FCCLA organization, our chapter at Seneca Valley, and these four students just wanted to give back and do what they could for the holiday season.”

Seneca Valley eighth-grader Eva Michaels, 13, works on a holiday greeting card for active duty military members in Kayla Keown’s family and consumer science class at Ryan Gloyer Middle School earlier this month.Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Seneca Valley eigth-graders, from left, Ben Davidson and Lincoln Martin work on a holiday greeting card for active duty military members in Kayla Keown’s family and consumer science class at Ryan Gloyer Middle School on Dec. 8. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Seneca Valley eigth-grader Cheyenne Eichenauer, 13, works on a holiday greeting card for active duty military members in Kayla Keown’s family and consumer science class at Ryan Gloyer Middle School on Dec. 8. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Students in Seneca Valley teacher Kayla Keown’s family and consumer science class at Ryan Gloyer Middle School made holiday greeting cards for active duty military. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle