One group of students at Mullins School is continuing a project to preserve the stories of U.S. veterans for years to come.
Jeanne Caudill, first grade teacher at Mullins, and four students from the Student Technology Leadership Program team last year focused the team’s annual project on contributing to the Veteran’s History Project. Their project is called “Save Our Stories.”
The U.S. Congress created the Veteran’s History Project in 2000 in order to collect, preserve and make accessible the first-hand accounts of veterans, and the project is provided by the Library of Congress.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the country’s veteran population is expected to decline from 20.8 million in 2015 to 12 million in 2045.
Caudill, who has been the coach for STLP for 19 years, said the project was important to preserve veterans’ memories and stories. One of the veterans interviewed by the students included Caudill’s father, Russell Parrent, who is now 94 years old. Parrent fought in World War II.
“I think this is one of the most important projects we’ve ever done,” Caudill said. “The thing that gets me is that there are so many veterans from World War II who are passing away, and when I read an obituary about a veteran who served in World War II, I get sad because we never got to them. We didn’t get a chance to record their stories.”
The four students who participated in the project last year on the team included Dalton Maynard, Malorie Maynard, Gracie Rice and Lilly Slone. The team used video equipment to record the interviews. After recording them, the videos were saved onto DVDs, and they were submitted with the completed paperwork to the Veteran’s History Project to be processed.
Once processed, the veterans’ stories will be made available online. The team completed four interviews last year, and they said they hope to complete more interviews this school year.
In March, the team members and their parents visited the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to meet with Kerry Ward, liaison specialist with the Library of Congress. They presented their interview documents and were designated as Library ambassadors. The team presented its project at the state STLP competition in April, and received a score of 119 out of 120. The group also received a trophy for “Best Project in the Region,” according to Caudill.
The Kentucky Department of Education’s STLP uses project-based learning with the creation and utilization of technology to “empower student learning and achievement” and to “solve school and community needs,” according to STLP.
Mullins School is one of eight schools in the Pike County Schools District to retain or be awarded “Gold Status” in STLP. The other seven schools in the district that received the distinction for the 2019-20 school year include Belfry Elementary, Belfry Middle School, Bevins Elementary, Dorton Elementary School, Feds Creek Elementary, Kimper Elementary School and Pike County Central High School.
According to STLP, only 78 schools in Kentucky received “Gold Status” for the 2019-20 school year. Gold Status STLP schools are “active, participate in events and positively advance their school, community and the STLP mission and goals,” and they must submit an application and meet criteria to receive the distinction.
Malorie Maynard, a seventh grader at Mullins, has had four veterans in her family, including two living uncles, one living cousin and an uncle who died years earlier. She has participated in STLP with her brother, Dalton, since first grade, and she interviewed one of her uncles and her cousin for the project. She said her least favorite part is when she finds out that a veteran has died before she recorded his or her stories.
“This might be my favorite project I’ve ever done at STLP,” Malorie said. “I don’t want their stories to be forgotten. I feel like I’ve also learned more about wars and history by working on this project than I have from class.”
Gracie Rice, a sixth grader at Mullins, has participated in STLP since second grade. She and Maynard will continue the project with new students on the team this school year. She said she wants to continue it this year because she feels like it is important for the veterans.
“My favorite thing about this project is that I feel like I’m making a difference in the world by doing it,” Rice said.
According to the Library of Congress, the project collects accounts from veterans in World War I, World War II, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, the Grenada-American Invasion of 1983, the Panama-American Invasion of 1989, Operation Restore Hope, Persian Gulf War, United Nations Operation in Somalia, Haiti-American Intervention, Operation Allied Force, Peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Operation Joint Guardian, War on Terrorism, Afghan War and the Iraq War.