Veterans Speak to Elmwood Students as School Honors Service to Country

An Elmwood Elementary School student thanks Navy veteran Amy Cleff-Holic for her service.

U.S. Navy veteran Ms. Amy Cleff-Holic listens as an Elmwood Elementary School student reads a letter thanking her for her military service. Ms. Cleff-Holic, who is Elm Middle School's nurse, was one of 10 veterans who spoke to Elmwood students Nov. 12 in observance of Veterans Day. (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)


Elm Middle School nurse Ms. Amy Cleff-Holic usually doesn't have much of an opportunity to interact with elementary-age students.

But on Nov. 12, she felt right at home as she spoke to Elmwood Elementary School students in grades 4-6 about her 25 years in the U.S. Navy.

The former hospital corpsman, who retired as a chief petty officer, was one of 10 guest speakers who visited the school to observe Veterans Day and discuss their service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Five of the veterans served in the Navy, four in the Army and one in the Air Force. (Scroll down to see the complete list.)

All of them were greeted warmly and attentively by the students, who asked plenty of questions about military life.

"I was really excited about being able to come over and talk to the kids," said Ms. Cleff-Holic, who spoke about her experiences stationed in Scotland, Iceland and Bermuda and aboard the USS John C. Stennis, a nuclear-powered supercarrier.

"It was a lot of fun. I tried to convey that serving in the military is an exciting opportunity. I joined right out of high school."


Army Staff Sgt. Ezequiel Ascencio takes a question from Elmwood students.

PHOTO: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ezequiel Ascencio takes a question from Elmwood Elementary School students. Staff Sgt. Ascencio is on active duty and serves as a recruiter based in the Riverside area. District 401 photo by Dave Porreca (click image for larger view).


A Theme of Service


The program, organized by teachers Ms. Jackie Dizonno and Ms. Lauren Jerzyk, grew out of a unit on volunteering and service in Elmwood's 5th-grade social studies curriculum.

"As the unit ended, we wanted the students to see how others give back," Ms. Dizonno said. "Our men and women in the armed forces are one of the ultimate ways for people to give back to our country. We wanted to honor them and for our students to see that we have many local heroes."

For much of the afternoon, students rotated from speaker to speaker, whose time in the military spanned from the late 1950s (Mr. James Scavone, who enlisted in the Navy in 1959) to the present day (Army Staff Sgt. Ezequiel Ascencio, who is an active-duty recruiter based in Riverside).

Students ended the sessions by thanking the veterans for their service and presenting tokens of appreciation, including flowers.

"We have received really positive feedback from both the students and staff," Ms. Dizonno said. "The students enjoyed hearing all of the different stories and seeing all of the artifacts — pictures, flags, hats, medals/honors, letters. Many students were surprised by the different options that they have after high school and later in life."

That was certainly one of the things Ms. Cleff-Holic wanted to get across to the students — the abundance of opportunities available to those who serve their country. 

And looking sharp in her Navy dress uniform, she no doubt made an impression on her youthful audience. As for why she chose to suit up in her Navy best instead of wearing civilian clothes, the explanation was pretty simple. 

"Because it's Veterans Day, and I can still fit in it," she said with a smile, explaining her fashion choice. "And I wanted to show it off, because it gives me pride." 


Navy veteran Yvette Maldonado receives flowers from an Elmwood student.

PHOTO: U.S. Navy veteran Ms. Yvette Maldonaldo shows her appreciation after receiving flowers from an Elmwood student. District 401 photo by Dave Porreca (click image for larger view).


Elmwood's Veterans Day Guest Speakers


NAME

SERVICE BRANCH

NOTES

Ezequiel Ascencio

U.S. Army

Still on active duty as staff sergeant and
recruiter in Riverside

Raymond Bryce

U.S. Air Force

Flew cargo planes in Iraq and Afghanistan

Amy Cleff-Holic

U.S. Navy

Served as hospital corpsman specializing
in preventive medicine; retired as chief
petty officer

Bernardo Guillen

U.S Army

Served in the 82nd Airborne Division;
Iraq-Afghanistan veteran

Tony Huaman

U.S. Navy

Served as a Navy cook

Gregory Kranz

U.S. Army

Served in the 86th Division (Army Reserve);
third-generation military

Yvette Maldonado

U.S. Navy

Participated in Operation Enduring Freedom
transporting Marines via the Navy’s "gator fleet"
of amphibious ships

Mike Ponce

U.S. Army

Served in the Army's Quartermaster Corps
specializing in petroleum supply; air assault
qualified; staff sergeant inducted into the
Sergeant Audie Murphy Club

James Scavone

U.S. Navy

Served in naval aviation specializing in
antisubmarine warfare

Darrick J. Young II

U.S. Navy

Served two tours in Iraq; duty stations in Japan,
Great Lakes, Ill., Portsmouth, Va.


More Photos from Elmwood's Veterans Day Program


The following District 401 photos were taken at Elmwood Elementary School on Nov. 12 by web/media specialist Dave Porreca. Click any image for a larger view.


Bernardo Guillen, U.S. Army veteran

Mr. Bernardo Guillen, U.S. Army veteran.


Listening to Mr. Guillen.

Listening to Mr. Guillen.


Bernardo Guillen, Army veteran

Mr. Bernardo Guillen, U.S. Army veteran.


Army Staff Sgt. Ezequiel Ascencio

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ezequiel Ascencio.


Listening to Staff Sgt. Ascencio

Listening to Staff Sgt. Ascencio.


Mr. Tony Huaman, Navy veteran

Mr. Tony Huaman, U.S. Navy veteran.


Listening to Mr. Huaman

Listening to Mr. Huaman.


Tony Huaman, Navy veteran

Mr. Tony Huaman, U.S. Navy veteran.


James Scavone, Navy veteran

Mr. James Scavone, U.S. Navy veteran.


Asking Mr. Scavone a question.

Asking Mr. Scavone a question.


James Scavone, Navy veteran

Mr. James Scavone, U.S. Navy veteran.


Yvette Maldonado, Navy veteran

Ms. Yvette Maldonado, U.S. Navy Veteran.


Thanking Ms. Maldonado for her service.

Thanking Ms. Maldonado for her service.


Yvette Maldonado, Navy veteran

Ms. Maldonado expressing her appreciation.


Gregory Kranz, Army veteran

Mr. Gregory Kranz, U.S. Army veteran, answering questions. 


Gregory Kranz, Army veteran

Mr. Gregory Kranz, U.S. Army veteran, with gift from students.


Students looking at memorabilia brought in by Mr. Kranz

Students looking at memorabilia brought in by Mr. Kranz. 


Mike Ponce, Army veteran

Mr. Mike Ponce, U.S. Army veteran


Asking Mr. Mike Ponce a question

Asking Mr. Ponce a question.


Mike Ponce, Army veteran

Mr. Mike Ponce, U.S. Army veteran.


Amy Cleff-Holic, Navy veteran

Ms. Amy Cleff-Holic, U.S. Navy veteran.


Amy Cleff-Holic receiving flowers

Thanking Ms. Cleff-Holic for her service.


Amy Cleff-Holic expresses her appreciation

Ms. Cleff-Holic expressing her appreciation.


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