Excitement, goosebumps and tears marked the beginning of the school day for Pine Log Elementary Friday.
The school was presented with an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of its winning first place in the Southeastern division of the United States for its Constitution Week activities last year.
In a brief ceremony around the flagpole, students watched as U.S. Army Sgt. Blake Weaver lowered the school’s current flag and raised the new one they received from U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) for the plays they did, essays they wrote and posters they created on the Bill of Rights and the Constitution during last year’s celebration.
Amy Nation, an officer with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), Etowah Chapter, presented the flag to Principal Dr. Lenora Nyeste and thanked the students and teachers for participating in the 228th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
“Our forefathers had a vision and a dream of our country being founded with democracy and freedom, and thanks to their efforts and their perseverance and the sacrifices of the generations that have gone before us, we are here to celebrate freedom and liberty today,” she said. “The American flag is a symbol of freedom and liberty. The red stands for valor and heartiness; the white, innocence and purity; and the blue, justice and perseverance. You are the future of America. Your hard work, your dreams, your goals and your aspirations is the essence of what this flag stands for. I am honored to be here today to present Pine Log Elementary with this flag that was flown over the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., for your outstanding work in Constitution Week 2014. ... May this flag fly in peace and may it forever be a reminder that freedom and liberty is obtained by unwavering faith, courage and hope for the future. God bless you.”
After accepting the flag from Nation, Nyeste said she is “so proud of the work that our teachers and our students do every single day,” and the flag serves as “just one more reminder of the great things that you can do here at Pine Log.”
She then handed it to Weaver, who had help from fifth-graders Tyler Reynolds and Blake Martin in lowering the old flag and folding it and raising the new one.
Once the old flag was properly folded, it was presented to the school’s bookkeeper, Deborah Fish, to give to her husband, Chuck.
“We have a very special place that we’re going to put our [old] Pine Log flag,” Nyeste said. “Mr. Fish ... comes to our school every single day to put our flag up every morning, and he comes every afternoon to take our flag down. He folds it, and he takes care of it, just like the rules say he has to for the flag. He knows how to take care of the American flag the way he’s supposed to. ... We’re going to replace our Pine Log flag with this flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol, and we’re going to dedicate that flag to Mr. Fish, and he can fly that flag over his house every morning.”
Fifth-grade teacher Judson Smith said Fish has been “an integral part of the flag that visitors see when they enter our parking lot.”
“It would just be natural for him to have the flag he has helped raise and lower countless times for us,” he said. “We know he will treat it with the care and respect it deserves.”
The ceremony ended with the students, teachers, staff members and guests reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, then the third- through fifth-grade classes immediately went to the cafeteria for a Bill of Rights presentation by special guest presenter Dale Cockrill.
Nyeste said the school was “very honored” to be chosen to receive the flag.
“To have the flag that was flown over the United States Capitol, what an honor,” she said. “My goodness. Very nice. It’s just one more way that we get to showcase what our students are doing here at Pine Log. They get to represent not only Pine Log and Bartow County, but the United States of America. I’m very proud of what they’re doing.”
Smith said receiving the flag is a “great honor” for the school, which has almost 400 students.
“I know our nation prides itself in patriotism, and for our little school in Rydal, Georgia, to be bestowed such an honor is a big deal,” he said. “Our students in grades fourth and fifth this year were a part of the assembly last year and are proud to be recognized. In addition, several of this year’s sixth-graders will also know that last year, when they were in fifth grade here, they played a huge part in PLES receiving this honor. ... It is great for them to see that it is possible to win things and be recognized for accomplishments.”
Nation, a Pine Log parent, said the future of America is “absolutely bright” due to the “amazing job” the Bartow County School System is doing in educating this generation.
“The students at Pine Log have done an outstanding job showing the state of Georgia and our nation what excellence in education is through their hard work and determination,” she said. “They’ve really proven themselves.”
Students participated in a number of activities last year that showed their patriotism.
“Last year, the fifth grade spent time on the Constitution, talking about what the Constitution means to every American, what our Founding Fathers went through to construct the Constitution and what rights we, as Americans, are guaranteed through the Constitution,” Smith said. “We also had an assembly for grades three through five that reviewed the Bill of Rights, what the Constitution is, and Mrs. [Myra] Pellegrini, one of our support teachers, worked with another teacher, and they had students perform plays that dealt with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.”
Smith said Nyeste “consistently challenges our staff to make [students’] educational experiences more memorable, meaningful and engaging.”
“She came to the fifth-grade teachers last year and asked us to put on something for Constitution Week that would allow all students in grades three through five to participate,” he said. “It was a great assembly that drew compliments from other staff members, visitors and all of the students.”
Constitution Week serves as a good reminder for everyone, including adults, about the freedoms American enjoy every day, according to Smith.
“I think it is important because even as adults, we sometimes forget or take for granted the sacrifice so many gave to begin our country and the sacrifice so many have given to continue to protect our rights,” he said. “It is our duty, as adults and teachers, to teach the next generation of Americans what the Constitution really means, what was sacrificed to begin our country and how things would be really different today if we did not have the Constitution.”
As for other plans besides the flag ceremony and assembly for this year’s event, students once again will be writing essays for the NSDAR, Etowah Chapter’s essay contest.
“Mrs. [Anita] Hulsey and Mrs. [Julie] Newberry, our other two fifth-grade teachers, will be working with the students on the essay topic, and we will submit them for judging,” Smith said. “Last year, we had a fifth-grader come in second place and one in fourth place. PLES also won an award for most qualified essays submitted for the contest. We plan on having the same success again this year. We feel that Mrs. Nation and the DAR is an integral part of our school and community, and we always enjoy working with her in things such as this.”