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Austintown veterans help dedicate new Purple Star Military Family Room

May 24, 2018
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

On May 15 veterans and school officials came together at Austintown Fitch to unveil a special project honoring the armed forces. A classroom no longer being used was repurposed over the past school year as a tribute to veterans and those currently serving in the military.

The new room was named the Purple Star Room. The intended use will be for students who have a family member serving in the military, for families of those serving, and as a meeting area for various military related activities and events.

The whole idea behind the room goes back to the summer of 2017. That is when the idea became a reality with the formation of The Purple Star Committee.

Article Photos

Posing next to the Air Force painting in the new Purple Star room on May 15 were Adina Pounds, SSgt. Morris Jamison and Austintown student Darius Collins, whose older brother Trent Collins is serving in Afghanistan. They were invited to the dedication ceremony for the new room, which will be available for students who have active duty family members serving in a branch of the military.

First of all, the name comes from the honor that Fitch received. The district recently received a Purple Star Award from the Ohio Department of Education, which recognizes schools that show a major commitment to students and families serving our nation's military. The idea for the room was sparked upon learning about the award.

"We do a lot in the district to honor our veterans and active military, but the award really inspired our Purple Star Committee to do more for our military-connected students," said Assistant Principal Jim Penk.

The committee is comprised of Penk, Fitch Principal Chris Berni, Austintown Public Relations Director Brittany Bueno, bus drivers Cynthia Clemens and Nicole Morrison, bus aide Krystal Clemens, para-professional Laura Haupt, community member Ken Jacubec, AES Principal Tim Kelty, and Fitch teacher Kristen O'Neil.

Everything in the room was donated, from the purple paint to the tables and custom-made tablecloths. The room is decorated with five paintings, commissioned by artist Ray Simon. Each represents a branch of the military. Simon, who is known for his military-related paintings, said for one painting it was a first.

"This was my first time ever to create a Coast Guard painting," he said.

The artwork was generously donated by local community members and businesses, who were honored during the ceremony. The donors included Denise and John York, Walter Terlecky, Joseph E. Lane, the Fitch Class of 1962, Greenwood Chevrolet, Karlock Podiatry and Associates, Betras, Kopp and Harshman, and Lawrence and Dolores Ronzi.

Haupt said the room will have a definite use and will be a safe place for students to go to de-stress. Haupt had a husband who served overseas and she knows first-hand how stressful it can be. She said it is also stressful on the parent serving when they miss their student's awards and ceremonies.

"Sometimes a child has to help the remaining-at-home parent deal with the stress," she said.

That is where the Purple Room comes into play. It can serve as a place for other students with parents serving to come together. It means a lot to share with other students who are going through the same thing.

On other important use for the room will involve the big screen television and computer hook up. With it, students will be able to Skype their parent through the foreign military base when possible. It will serve as a vital link in helping families keep in touch.



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