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Massapequa Observer - Schools

Soldier Visits Berner Middle School

The act of giving back was experienced at its finest by one special member of our U. S. military and a teacher who encouraged her students to remember the troops.

Students in Jenny Gillam’s Personal Computer Applications class at Alfred G. Berner Middle School wrote letters and sent them, along with donated items, to soldiers; a project she’s done with her students since the 9/11 attacks. While the majority of the letters were dropped off at Adopt-A-Battalion in Massapequa Park and sent to Afghanistan, the Adopt-A-Battalion was also able to send some to a soldier stationed in Georgia with special ties to Berner Middle School.

Army Pvt. Nicole DiGregorio, a 2008 Massapequa High School graduate, sat in Gillam’s class and participated in this letter-writing/care package project 10 years ago, never thinking that one day she would be the recipient of one. Overwhelmed by the students’ gesture, she visited Gillam’s class in uniform to thank the students personally just days after she made a surprise visit home.

“I cried when I received the package,” Pvt. DiGregorio said. “I remember writing my letter and how I included a picture of an American flag. This project shows the appreciation others have for those who are serving the country…people who don’t even know me are thinking of me and showing they care. It made me really happy.”

Pvt. DiGregorio, who is about nine months into an four-year, active-duty contract and is being trained in communication systems, talked to the students about what army life is like and answered questions they had about her military career. She also discussed some personal sacrifices she had to make, such as missing her sister’s wedding and all the celebrations leading up to the special day.

Using their computer skills, the students surprised Pvt. DiGregorio with an inspiring slideshow they created with photos of her in the army and of the wedding she missed, which were sent by Pvt. DiGregorio’s mom, Marlene. The slideshow was appropriately set to the song, “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles.