St. Joseph students help bring heroes’ museum to Texas
ARLINGTON — Students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Arlington played a major role in the city’s bid to land the National Medal of Honor Museum, according to museum officials.
Earlier this fall, fourth-graders wrote letters and first-graders drew pictures to ask site selection committee members to choose North Texas as the museum’s future home.
On Nov. 7, Joe Daniels, the CEO and president of the National Medal of Honor Museum, and Marc Wolf, the museum’s vice president of development, visited St. Joseph to thank the students for their contribution to the bid.
“Your letters had a direct impact on why we chose Arlington for this museum,” Daniels told the school’s fourth-graders.
In his talk with first-graders, Daniels said the museum would honor young men and women who helped others “under extremely difficult circumstances.”
He urged students to make difficult choices when necessary and do small acts of kindness.
“When you’re faced with hard choices or you see someone who needs a helping hand, make a good choice to give a helping hand or give a kind word,” he said.
St. Joseph first-graders said they wanted to help bring the museum to Arlington with their drawings.
First-grader Alexandria Vela said she drew the Medal of Honor, the American flag, the Texas flag, and the logo for the City of Arlington on her drawing.
Several first-graders said they wanted to honor people who served in the military.
Elisa Chavira said, “They fight for us.”
First-grade teacher Elisa Aguirre said she and first-grade teacher Amber Corneil asked students to create the drawings as part of a social studies lesson.
Aguirre said, “We talked about what the military does for us as community helpers, how they fight for our freedom, and what an honor it is to be in the military.”
Wolf said that one of the reasons Arlington’s bid stood out was the inclusion of messages from children.
“It reminded us of the purpose of the museum, and how we want to reach this generation of future leaders,” Wolf said.
The idea to include messages from children came from Carolyn Mentesana, executive director of the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, a public charity serving the city of Arlington.
Mentesana asked her friend Shanna Brennan, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Joseph, to have her students participate in the project.
“I wanted to include them because a big part of the museum is character building and selflessness,” Mentesana said.
Brennan said she asked her students to write letters about how the museum would provide opportunities for people to learn about valor and protecting the nation’s freedom, the reasons why Arlington would be a good fit and to include personal stories of family members who served in the military.
“They took it to heart,” Brennan said. “Reading the letters, you could tell they have pride in their country and in Arlington.”
Wolf told the fourth graders that classmate Ayden Bingham’s letter was framed and hanging in the museum’s office in New York City.
Ayden said he wrote about his grandfather who served in World War II and won a medal for valor.
Fourth-grader Joy Dike said, “Soldiers are doing so much to protect our country that we wanted to ask them to build the museum in Arlington.”
Daniels, the former CEO of the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, said the museum is slated to open in four years in the Arlington Entertainment District and invited St. Joseph students to be the first school field trip to the site.
Daniels said he enjoyed visiting with students.
“In a world where we’re so hyper divided, this gives us hope for the next generation,” he said.
Principal Diane Price said that students have been writing notes to military service members since Sept. 11, 2001.
On the day Daniels and Wolf visited, several packets of cards written by second-graders were in the outgoing mail for Army and Air Force soldiers serving at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Price said she was touched that the students had such a big impact on the selection committee. “Something as simple as writing a sweet letter or drawing a picture — something they do all the time — people making the decision recognized their heartfelt love,” she said.