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ODE Purple Star Committee visits Fitch to see the Purple Star room

January 30, 2019
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

On Jan. 23, two members of the Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) Purple Star Committee made the trip to Austintown to check out the Fitch High School Purple Star Room, a repurposed room at Fitch designed for students who have parents serving in the military.

The room gives students a chance to socialize with other students who are in the same situation. They are able to discuss their feelings with students who are going through the same situations.

Last week's visit was made possible after Austintown Schools Community Engagement Specialist Brittany Bueno attended an ODE Conference in December. The Fitch Purple Star Room was mentioned and the committee members were invited to stop by and see it for themselves.

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier

Attending a recent ODE Purple Star Committee visit to Fitch were several local active duty and retired veterans who supported the creation of the Purple Star Room at Fitch. Pictured are Sam Swoger III from American Legion Post 301, Kenneth David from the Disabled American Veterans local chapter, Ken Jakubec from the Marine Corp League, Chip Merkle from the Ohio National Guard Youth program, Army recruiter Sgt 1st Class Kimberly McGinness, Retired Army veteran Leo H. Connelly Jr., VFW 4237 Commander John Balint, and local artist Ray Simon, who donated the artwork for the Fitch Purple Room and a supporter of veterans causes.

Bueno was able to set up a meeting with local veterans groups and the Purple Star Room student committee that runs all fundraisers and events based around the room.

"We are honored that the Purple Star Committee reached out for a visit and look forward to having conversations on how to better serve our military-connected families. Sharing our vision for the Purple Star Room in addition to other projects honoring our military will also be very exciting for those who have been heavily involved from the beginning," said Superintendent Vincent Colaluca.

The ODE Purple Star Committee awards schools that show major commitment to students and families connected to our nation's military. Austintown Fitch High School was awarded with a Purple Star Award in March of 2018. Shortly after, the Purple Star Room was unveiled.

Students attending included Stephanie Mulligan, Jason Hosey, Haylie Blevins, and Madeline Eicher. Hosey and Eicher had grandparents that served in the Army and Mulligan is a Purple Star student whose family member Zachary White is serving at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

"It is really amazing to meet all the other students in my position," she said. "And it is great to have such school support."

Chip Merkle from the Ohio National Guard Youth Program, and who serves on the state's Purple Star Committee, said, "Other school can learn from what has been done here at Fitch. Already, other states want to mimic the program we have here in Ohio."

Merkle said he was very impressed with the room and said there was none like this in the state. He said it will serve as a great model for other schools to copy.



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