The room was abuzz as the students in Brian Hultquist's fifth-grade class at wait to be chosen to organize and box the care packages that will be sent to their adopted Marine.
The students are volunteering to sort, itemize, fill and seal boxes of food and personal items for Grace Fryer, a Marine sergeant who is serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The class project is part of an adopt-a-Marine program that connects groups with a deployed Marine.
Students listed each goody on the customs slip. Each item has to be written on the slip so the post office knows what’s inside, the students explained. Other students neatly packed Girl Scout cookies, gum, powdered drink packets, magazines and word puzzles. A group of girls packed air fresheners, lip balm, music gift cards and colorful notepads and pens.
In a mere 45 minutes, three carefully and lovingly packed boxes were ready to be shipped.
“This is a service-learning project, which is part of our school’s curriculum as a National School of Character. Adopt-a-Marine was brought to us by Mr. Hultquist in 2010,” said Jodi Davidson, principal at Chesterfield Elementary. “We encourage our students to take an active voice in the entire process.”
Hultquist’s classes have adopted three Marines since 2010. The first was seriously injured and is now back in the United States. The second recently returned from his deployment. And now, there’s Grace Fryer. Fryer is a wife and mother of a toddler, she is serving her third deployment in the Middle East. Hultquist’s class will adopt Fryer's husband, Chris, as well. He is also a Marine sergeant and will be deployed in April 2011.
“We’re excited to have a female Marine this time,” fifth-grader Ellie DeGraw said.
“She needs different, fun things that guys don’t want. We also sent a happy birthday video to her and she liked it so much,” Abigail Duesenberg, another student, said.
The students do more than just send packages to the Marines. They get to know them.
“My students have built relationships with the Marines we’ve adopted and with their families as well,” Hultquist said. “The wife of one of our Marines wrote letters to each student individually to thank them for their kindness.” The father of the injured Marine visited Hultquist’s class to talk with the students about his son, Hultquist said.
The students have learned a lot from the experience that they might not get from studying math or social studies.
“We do this to show respect to our Marines and to show we care,” fifth-grader Rashaun Allen said. “It’s taught me to think of others’ needs and not myself all the time.”