The halls of Drexel Avenue School glowed green last week, as the students, faculty and administration showed their support for veterans.
For the third year in a row, Drexel took part in the “Greenlight a Vet” movement, a nationwide campaign started by Walmart to show visible support for veterans. The initiative encourages residents and businesses to change a light in their home or office to a green bulb, as a symbol of appreciation for vets.
“We like raising awareness about veterans,” said Drexel fifth-grader Adelina Santos. “I like that we get to honor people who helped us.”
Drexel librarian Patricia Matarazzo partnered together with Mary Davis to put on the event, which included searching for green lights to hang up in the school hallways. After a local Walmart said they had none in stock, Matarazzo went to the top.
“I emailed the CEO of Walmart and told him we wanted to go green,” Matarazzo said. “We told them we would pay, but he sent us green lights gratis, and people have been donating green lights [as well].”
The green lights are meant to symbolize hope, renewal and well-being, as well as a “thumbs-up” on a job well done. That sentiment flowed through Drexel on Nov. 8, as students showed their support to the group of roughly a dozen veterans who were invited to the school.
Students lined the hallway as patriotic music played through the hallways and the NJROTC presented the colors. The youngsters also took time to shake hands of the veterans, and voice their appreciation. As the veterans enjoyed refreshments in the library, a group of students also sang The Star Spangled Banner.
“We put this event on to educate our youth on the role of veterans and the sacrifices that have been made, and how lucky we are to be living in this great country,” said Matarazzo.
“They need to be knowledgeable about the sacrifices people have made in the past so they can enjoy their freedom.”
Matarazzo noted that there are three to four veteran-based events at the school each year, including a visit to the Veterans Memorial in Eisenhower Park in May and writing Valentines to veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland in February.
One key person missing at this year’s Greenlight A Vet ceremony was Joe Librizzi, a veteran and “friend of Drexel” for 15 years who passed away in June. Librizzi started a flag program at the school and held programs at Drexel around Veteran’s Day and the anniversary of Pearl Harbor to educate students.
“This event is in dedication of him,” Matarazzo said. “He was a friend of Drexel for 15 years and we miss him.”