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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
Small children dressed in military attire, medical scrubs and many other outfits could be seen climbing in and out of a police cruiser, fire truck and ambulance on Jan. 31.
They were told to dress like a hero that day for Holy Name Catholic School’s “Celebrate our nation day,” as a part of National Catholic Schools Week. The tour of the vehicles came after the United States Coast Guard Color Guard visited the school to lead a flag ceremony in the morning.
National Catholic Schools Week has been a national event since 1974, and is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States, according to information from the National Catholic Educational Association.
It began the last Sunday in January and ran until Feb. 3. This year’s theme was, “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” Catholic schools across the United States celebrated the event by having Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members, according to the NCEA.
Holy Name was no different. They spent each day last week celebrating and recognizing a certain aspect of their school. On Jan. 29, Holy Name students celebrated their families by eating a buffet breakfast with their parents at the school. On Jan. 31, the students were celebrated.
The school held a Texas Waffle Bar lunch, where they decorated waffles with different colorful and tasty treats, like mini chocolate chips, strawberries and whipped cream. Holy Name has a special connection with the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Dallas, which recently sent them a care package that included a Texas-shaped waffle maker.
Also on Jan. 30, the students spent part of their day in bouncy houses at The Plaza mall, and roller skated at the Gateway Recreation Center.
On Jan. 31, the United States Coast Guard Color Guard led the school in a flag ceremony in the gym. Afterwards, the students were visited by members of the Ketchikan Police Department and Ketchikan Fire Department to tour an ambulance and police cruiser.
Alma Parker, an administrative assistant at Holy Name, took some time away from the event on Jan. 31 to talk with the Daily News about the visit from local emergency officials, and the national celebration as a whole.
“They talked about some of their safety protocols and did some friendly reminders for our students. Now they’re kind enough to let them go through their vehicles,” she laughed, “and touch any buttons and all that stuff.”
Parker said “Celebrate our nation day” holds dear to her heart. Her husband is a veteran, her father served, and she has brothers in the military. She thinks it’s important that students not only recognize national service members and heroes, but local ones as well.
The students were able to honor local heroes by dressing up as a real-life hero. Some students were dressed as doctors and nurses, and others were dressed as police officers, pilots and soldiers.
Silema Garcia, a sixth-grader, was dressed in military gear because her dad was in the army. She’s been attending Holy Name since preschool and has participated in Catholic Schools Week every year.
After celebrating the nation, Holy Name celebrated vocations with a school-wide assembly on Feb. 1. Students talked about careers and what God is calling them to do with their talents and gifts, according to Nicole Miller, Holy Name School administrator.
Rebecca Mike, Holy Name third- and fourth-grade teacher, said vocations day gives students the opportunity to discuss what they’d like to be when they grow up. Not only did they talk about vocations in the church, but other careers that might interest them, as well.
Mike has been a teacher at the school for a year after teaching in public education for 14 years, and said the national event gives Holy Name the chance to reach out to the community.
“I think that it’s really, really great to give them the fun week … and all of the spirit and different costumes they wear every day, but it’s also a great chance to honor some of the connections that we have,” Mike said.
Those connections were honored for a few more days. After celebrating Holy Name staff on Friday, students and parents gathered at the school on Saturday to celebrate the community. This year, they chose a service project called Bags of Love, and students collected donations all week for foster children.
“Kids have been bringing in things for foster children of their age group … things that they might want if they were traveling from home to home,” Parker said.
Some of those items included stuffed animals, brushes, toiletries, board games, shampoo and socks. Silema and her mother, Maria Garcia, were at the school on Saturday distributing the items into bags to be taken to foster children.
Maria Garcia said she’s a foster parent herself, and they began fostering when Silema was three months old. She said some of her foster children have been students at Holy Name, and described the school as a “beautiful environment.”
For their last day of celebration, Holy Name Catholic School students were a part of the Sunday Mass, where they celebrated the parish by singing a special song while dressed in their Sunday best.
Overall, Parker said Catholic Schools Week is a way to recognize what Holy Name represents and what they teach their students.
“It also allows them to go out into the community and realize what the bigger picture is as a servant of not just God, but of your community and family, and representing your family in that manner,” Parker said.