Smithtown’s New Wall Honors Military Heroes

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Five High School West students – Sophia Emma, Shayna Moses, Chloe Mango, Paige Diecidue and Rociel Raymundo – recently spearheaded an initiative that honors, recognizes and connects alumni who served in the military back to their roots in Smithtown.

The project began as a part of a social studies leadership class assignment, under the direction of High School West social studies teacher Joan Havranek. “After speaking with many of these alumni, I feel like this is just a very rewarding project,” Havranek said. “The wall means a lot to them and their families and it’s definitely garnered plenty of interest.”

“We felt like the district needed to love, honor and respect the sacrifices those in the military have given,” said Shayna. Rociel added, “Many times we don’t really know what these alumni do after they graduate.”

To that end, the students decided to create a Wall of Heroes, dedicated to honoring military servicemen and women. They started a campaign to encourage alumni to come forward with information about their military service to be featured on the wall. They created a flyer, QR code and sent out messaging in the local papers and social media to seek submissions.

Although the students initially hoped the project would be complete before last Memorial Day, or at the least before they graduated, the number of submissions was so great, the idea kept growing. So far, the district has received more than 160 submissions and will continue to accept them. Adding new alumni to the wall will be an ongoing project. 

“We have submissions from a wide variety of military, from those who served in the Vietnam War to those who just graduated last year,” Ms. Havranek said. 

The large mural in the front of the High School West building was installed in early July, and High School East will feature a similar tribute. Plaques of each of the “heroes” will be mounted along the walls, featuring the name, branch of service and year of graduation. The students also solicited additional information from the alumni, which may be featured in a future digital library.

“It’s really nice to see our vision come to life,” added Rociel. Once the plaques are mounted in both of the high schools, the district plans to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony and invite the alumni in to celebrate around Veterans Day.