The Kiski Area Veteran’s Website serves to not only tell the stories of the Veterans within the community around the Kiski Area School District, but also creates opportunities for the school to become more interactive with the local men and women who have served our country so that we may honor the sacrifices they have made.
The website, established in 2016, was born as a cross curricular project between English and Social Studies classes around the novel The Things They Carried. The original idea was to have students write a historical biography graded in history for its historical accuracy while being graded in English for grammar, syntax, etc... The program evolved when the idea to use Gigapan technology obtained through our district partnership with Carnegie Mellon via the Alle-Kiski Best Practices Collaborative (ABC Create) to create a website honoring Veterans whose names appear on various monuments located within the Geographic boundaries of our district was discussed.
Using a camera and Gigapan (not necessary to replicate this model-only impacts the quality of the images found on our website) images were taken by our student co-founders Kelsey Sofaly and Kylie Zaffina along with Dan Smith & Jim Christie in a supervisory role. Once those images were taken a master list of names available was compiled and added to our website by the Program Co-Founders and Student Co-Founders. The work of creating biographies then got started; students taking Modern World History at Kiski Area High School select a Veteran from our list when they cover those time periods in class. The hope is many students can find Veterans they are related to or are neighbors with to develop the personnel connection to history.
The students find information about where the Veteran is specifically from, the education they’ve had, involvement with which war(s), medals or awards from the service they have received, etc…and construct a biography for the student created, student maintained website. Resources afforded the student include ancestry.com (our district has a one year access to all the original and primary documents of Ancestry's U.S. Collection ), findagrave.com, (free resource), and local books such as Honor in the AK Valley. The information, along with pictures relating to the Veteran, is added to their name on the website by the student as part of their class assignment.
After the students add new biographies, the work of our student editors begins. The editors check for broken links, inappropriate information, and that the correct format and style was used for each biography. When any of these items are found, the student editors remove the link, incorrect information, etc...or if the biography does not stack up to the standard expected to honor a Veteran, it can be improved or removed. Our student editors also handle designing the general layout of the website, its appearance, and seek improvements to the website through in school endeavors such as Broadcast Media classes creating a video to act as an introduction to the Website.
Through our research, we have come to understand many Veterans of the Kiski Area School District still live in the region but no longer live within the geographic borders of the school district. Conversations with other local districts began in the fall of 2018 for expanding the project; neighboring district Apollo-Ridge has volunteered to learn from our experience to build a similar program at their district! In April of 2019 the Program Co-Founders and Student Editors will begin mentoring the Apollo-Ridge School District in their efforts.
As we have become more involved with the community, we have been able to come into contact with more veterans by establishing an email for the website and establishing a social media presence in the name of this project. We routinely reach out to the community through Twitter and Instagram in an effort to bring the community into our project. This easily enables Veterans to reach out to us by asking to be included on the site, add more information or detail to their biography, and occasionally we will be contacted simply to thank us for the time we have spent dedicating and honoring those who have served.
Our main goal is to show tribute to Veterans from the Kiski Area School District by properly sharing the great sacrifices they have made while bringing our community into our curriculum in a modern approach to Community Outreach. This project has inspired other local districts to begin work on their own journey to honor Veterans as referenced earlier.
Our eventual program goal is to help as many districts as possible to develop a way to honor local Veterans! We are proud of where we are, but know we have a long way to go. We look forward to the opportunity to continue our mission in the years to come!