By Ashley Bouwense
Mt. Pleasant Elementary School’s students, faculty and staff—donned with red, white and blue—gathered in the gym to celebrate its 14th annual Flag Day program 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., Tues., June 14.
The program has been a tradition since 2002—an outgrowth of personal tragedy.
After a Mt. Pleasant teacher lost a loved-one in 9/11, the school rallied together to create an end-of-the-year, patriotic Flag Day assembly to honor those who lost their lives in the attacks and to honor the country.
More than 400 people attended this year’s celebration, with some outside guests, including war veterans, former Mt. Pleasant principal Michael Schiavo and about 30 parents.
Melodic song, encouraging speeches and flowing flags filled the room that morning. The event began with the song, “God Bless America,” sung by Schiavo. The retired principal and former doo-wop singer received thunderous applause from the audience when he took the stage, an appropriate tribute for the school’s former principal. Following his solo, every grade-level sang a patriotic song, and then all of the students sang together.
At the end of the ceremony, the group watched a slide show of all of the school highlights throughout the year. The montage captured special moments, such as recess, classroom instruction and special events like the annual walk-a-thon.
Everyone looks forward to the slideshow every year.
“It’s a fan favorite,” said Principal Julie DiGiacomo.
“This event is so special because it’s something that is not built in to the curriculum,” DiGiacomo said, “yet it is imperative that we have it built in because it encourages patriotism. It’s important to foster a love for your country at a young age.”
Mt. Pleasant was selected as one of the 10 most diverse schools in the country. Only 10 schools in New Jersey were selected for this honor, and Mt. Pleasant was one of them.
“Our school is a symbol of what the United States is—a melting pot,” said DiGiacomo.
Most of the students who attend the school are from first generation families. Central America, Europe and Africa are only a few of the myriad of places around the globe represented in the Mt. Pleasant student population.
“We really come together as a diverse student body to bond over being American,” said DiGiacomo.
Not only does the school encourage its diverse community to come together during the Flag Day program, it also supports diversity during its annual, end-of-the-year Family Fun Carnival, which was held Thurs., June 9. The day’s festivities not only included a mechanical bull, dunk tank, DJ, barbecue and bouncy houses, it incorporated an afternoon Diversity Assembly, where the student body celebrated their diversity award.
DiGiacomo has been Mt. Pleasant’s principal for one year now. She said her time at the school has been great and she will support the faculty and staff in keeping the Flag Day program alive.
“It is such a special tradition,” she said.
The Mt. Pleasant Elementary School will continue with traditions such as its Flag Day program, as it is a school dedicated to fostering a dynamic and strong community of diverse learners in West Orange, and is a leader in educational diversity in the country.