Blake High Volunteers Welcome Soldiers Home
Members of the school's community service club partnered with Operation Welcome Home to meet returning soldiers at BWI airport.
These students, along with other organizations and families, decorated the airport and created signs for the soldiers’ arrival, while additional groups passed out snacks and carried luggage.
“Doing this was an eye-opening experience," said Derek Ritzenberg, the group's sponsor. "It really made us appreciate and understand the sacrifice of not only the soldiers, but of the families as well.”
Project Change is a non-profit organization that encourages youth involvement in the community through service. In Montgomery County, there are seven schools that have Project Change chapters, including Blake. Representatives from each school’s club meet twice a year to collaborate in their various projects.
This PC group decided that for one of their projects they wanted to become involved with Operation Welcome Home, an organization that has arranged over 700 of these greeting events for homecoming soldiers since its founding in 2007.
“We wanted to focus on doing something for our veterans and our military…and assist in a positive event that was local to us,” said Ritzenberg.
Most students who attended agreed that this event is something that they want to do again.
“The homecoming of the soldiers was such a heartwarming experience," said Blake sophomore Kristina McKenna. "I’ve had my dad deployed and it was really awesome seeing others have the same kind of happiness I had in that moment.”
“I will never forget this experience," said Blake sophomore Lillian Hallmark. "It felt so amazing to do something for the troops, especially the day…after Veterans Day.”
Many students felt an overwhelming sense of pride in their role in supporting the troops.
The Operation Welcome Home event that Blake students attended was such a success that they plan to participate in similar opportunities in the future. Ritzenberg hopes to involve many more students and families in the next event.
“Just seeing those brave men and women finally come home was awesome," said Blake sophomore Melanie Outtarac. "It felt so good to really show the troops that we appreciate them.”
Kristen Frese and Savannah Doane-Malotte attend James Hubert Blake High School. They are co-editors-in-chief of The Blake Beat newspaper.