Local Veterans honored at TF North luncheon

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TF North Student Action Team members serve food at Friday’s Veterans Appreciation Luncheon at TF North High School. From left to right are: Simbiat Ibrahim, Ruben Canchola, Diego Torres, Fabian Rodriguez, and Kassandra Saavebra. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
By Carrie Steinweg

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (May 24, 2022) – For the past seven years, two clubs at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City have joined to host a luncheon to thank local veterans for their service. The May 20 event hosted at TF North included a meal catered by Heine’s McCarthy’s, dessert, a performance by the school choir, and raffles.

Joint effort

The Veteran Appreciation Luncheon was hosted by TF North’s Student Action Team and History Club. The Student Action Team is a community service club that is involved in a number of service projects each year. For many of their efforts, students go out into the community to places like the Ronald McDonald House, food pantries, and charity organizations, but there are two events that are held in-house. One is a Thanksgiving dinner for the community that draws around 350 people. The other is the Veterans Appreciation Luncheon. Around 65 kids are members of the Student Action Team and about 15 of them participated in the Veterans Appreciation Luncheon.

Lansing veterans Jim Kijewski, who served in the U.S. Army from 1958-1964 (left) and Warren Housinger, who served in the U.S. Army from 1957-1963, attended the Veterans Appreciation Luncheon at TF North High School on Friday. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

The Student Action Team coordinated the event with TF North’s History Club, led by history teacher Bill Weber. The club’s relationship with local veterans extends beyond the school walls. In the past students have assisted VFW Post 8141 with spaghetti dinners and other events and students have had the opportunity to interact with the brave men and women they have read about in their history books. The club also organizes a Veterans Day assembly to honor veterans in the community.

Student involvement

“We have a great group of kids and we are glad to partner with Mr. Weber and the History Club to honor our veterans. He knows them well,” said Ayanna Dowd, a speech pathologist at the school who co-sponsors the club with Spanish teacher Ana Navarrete.

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Faculty sponsors (from left) Ayanna Dowd, Bill Weber, and Ana Navarrete worked together with students from the TF North Student Action Team and History Club to coordinate a Veterans Appreciation Luncheon at the school on Friday. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

Students greeted guests, set-up for the occasion, served food, decorated, and cleaned up the space after the event.

Members of the school choir, led by Mr. Bill Spakowski, performed for veterans to open the luncheon.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” Dowd said. “It’s good for the students. They learn to serve others and do something that isn’t just about themselves. They learn to work together and interact with each other, so it helps with their social skills. And I think it also helps them appreciate their own lives and what they have when they have the opportunity to honor those who have served and sacrificed.”

Besides serving veterans who dined in the cafeteria, a drive-thru option was also available and to-go containers were packed and brought out to cars.

Showing gratitude

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U.S. Air Force Veteran Sherria Ralston said the luncheon made her feel “very appreciated and welcome.” (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

The luncheon was sponsored by Calumet City Clerk Nyota Figgs and Calumet City Alderman Mike Navarrete, with additional funds raised by both clubs.

“The purpose of this event is to honor our veterans and thank them. We honor them in the fall, but this is another way to honor them,” Weber said. “It’s another way for us to say thank you.”

Weber said that over the years there have been many former students and relatives of students and employees who have attended the luncheon.

Sherria Ralston, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 2018 to 2021, learned about the event through her mother, who is part of the lunchroom staff. It was her first time attending. “I felt very appreciated and welcome,” she said. “This was very nice.”

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Miguel Gonzalez, president of the TF North History Club said he sees the Veterans Appreciation Luncheon as a good way to serve the community. (Carrie Steinweg)

Sophomore Miguel Gonzalez is president of the TF North History Club and he said that although the club is small in numbers, the students really like having the chance to do something to for local veterans. Seven History Club members were present Friday to help out at the event. “It was a pleasure serving these vets,” he said. “I see this as a good opportunity for us to serve our community.”

TF North High School is located at 755 Pulaski Road in Calumet City.

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