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Charter Oak International Academy Shows Support for Local Veterans

Janet Fournier, a paraprofessional at West Hartford's Charter Oak International Academy, has been organizing the school's Veterans Day program for more than 20 years. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Students at West Hartford’s Charter Oak International Academy collected food for the Veterans Administration Food Bank in celebration of Veterans Day, and had a chance to tour military vehicles.

Charter Oak students tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

For more than 20 years, Janet Fournier has been organizing Veterans Day celebrations at Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford, where she is a paraprofessional.

Most years the celebration has included an assembly led by the students, with dozens of veterans in attendance, but for the past two years the COVID-19 pandemic has made that type of event impossible. No formal celebration took place in 2020, amid the strict protocols that were in place at the time, but this year Fournier found a way to hold a safe event that involved the entire Charter Oak community.

“Because of COVID we we still weren’t able to do a big crowd inside,” she said. But Fournier will be retiring at the end of December, and wanted to make sure the last official Veterans Day event she organized was meaningful.

This year’s event, she said, was a great success and perhaps even more meaningful.

Janet Fournier, a paraprofessional at West Hartford’s Charter Oak International Academy, has been organizing the school’s Veterans Day program for more than 20 years. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“Our children at Charter Oak are so kind,” she said Thursday, as a steady stream of students dropped of donations of nonperishables for the Veterans Administration Food Bank, which is located in Newington. She estimated that more than 1,000 items such as pasta, sauce, peanut butter, cereal, tuna, soups, macaroni and cheese, and other easy meals and staples had been donated.

The Charter Oak International Academy community donated more than 1,000 items to the VA Food Bank on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The 143rd Military Police, based nearly right across the street from the school in West Hartford, brought one of their military vehicles to the school, and provided tours and posed for photos with the students. They planned to transport the collections to the Food Bank. Dan O’Connor, a retired West Hartford Public Schools employee, brought a military jeep he had rebuilt, and students took turns trying out the seats.

Charter Oak students tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fournier has always inspired to hold a Veterans Day celebration by her love for the country and the people who defend it, as well as her love for children.

“I’m very passionate about Veterans Day, and I think it’s important for the kids to learn about it,” she said. Thursday’s outpouring was overwhelming, she added.

“We want to wish all our veterans a Happy Veterans Day,” she said.

And while she will be officially retired, Fournier is already planning to volunteer to hold an event at Charter Oak next November.

Martha Gustafson, a paraprofessional in one of Charter Oak International Academy’s kindergarten classes, helps students drop off their food donations and tour some of the military vehicles outside the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Charter Oak students tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Interior of a military vehicle parked at Charter Oak on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Charter Oak students tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Charter Oak students speak with members of the 143rd Military Police Company, based in West Hartford, tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Charter Oak students tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Charter Oak students tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dan O’Connor, a former West Hartford Public Schools employee, welcomed Charter Oak students into the military jeep he rebuilt. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Charter Oak International Academy community donated more than 1,000 items to the VA Food Bank on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Charter Oak International Academy community donated more than 1,000 items to the VA Food Bank on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Charter Oak students tour one of two military vehicles parked at the school on Veterans Day. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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